Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau found that a great percentage of the American population holds a bachelor’s degree than ever before. And at the same time, college graduates are facing record levels of debt from obtaining such degrees.
And as a rise in tuition costs come with a rise in unemployment, the question that seems to be raised is simple: Is college really worth it?
By the looks of some data, the answer seems to be no.
If you’re working your way through your 20s or 30s right now, chances are you spend your day selling things to whatever customers wander into your store, whether that’s at Kohl’s (NYSE:KSS) or Macy’s (NYSE:M).
Because, according to a recent study from Millennial Branding, the most commonly held jobs by Generation Y are in retail.
At first this seems to make perfect sense, considering that Generation Y members tend to fall between the ages of 19 and 30, so many could be working their way through or between semesters of college.
But more and more, they continue to work in retail even after graduation since they are unable to find work in their preferred fields.
Generation Y workers are five times more likely to hold such jobs compared to all workers. And what may start out as a filler job until another position comes available can often end up sticking.
In fact, the data shows that two of the most common Gen Y jobs are floor clerk and clothing sales associate — and over half of the former and 80% of the latter indicated having a bachelor’s degree.
On the one hand, though, considering today’s high levels of unemployment — July unemployment, for one, reached a five-month high with a slight bump up to 8.3% — any job can be a blessing. And that’s especially true for recent graduates saddled with record amounts of student debt.
But being a retail sales associate is the fifth-worst-paying job, bringing home an average salary of only $19,300 a year. The only jobs that pay worse are cashier, barista, hotel clerk or dietary aide. And so instead of being happy that they can pay for their student loans, Gen Y must be asking if those student loans were such a good idea in the first place.
Many young adults could skip the tuition altogether and end up making more money than what they make in retail — and many may start doing just that as tuition rates continue to go up and jobs continue to be hard to find.
On the other hand, for some Gen Y members, there is no question that college indeed pays off. Positions in science and technology pay the best for the age group and, oftentimes, they’re just better jobs all around.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) are some of the best companies for Gen Y based not only on pay, but also on factors like job satisfaction and flexible schedules — probably because no Google employee ever has to face a rush of Black Friday shoppers.
But, more-than-likely, Gen Y kids are doing just that — helping hurrying customers and raking in a meager salary in retail — even with expensive degrees in their back pockets.