The Janitor With A College Degree

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Here’s a powerful symbol of the persistently weak state of the American job market: the janitor with a college degree.

Mary Beth Marklein of USA Today reports that nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they’re overqualified:

“A new study, released by the non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity, says the trend is likely to continue for newly minted college graduates over the next decade.

‘It is almost the new normal,’ says lead author Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the center, based in Washington.

Vedder, whose study is based on 2010 Labor Department data, says the problem is the stock of college graduates in the workforce (41.7 million) in 2010 was larger than the number of jobs requiring a college degree (28.6 million).

That, he says, helps explain why 15% of taxi drivers in 2010 had bachelor’s degrees vs. 1% in 1970. Among retail sales clerks, 25% had a bachelor’s degree in 2010. Less than 5% did in 1970.

‘There are going to be an awful lot of disappointed people because a lot of them are going to end up as janitors,’ Vedder says. In 2010, 5% of janitors, 115,520 workers, had bachelor’s degrees, his data show.

Matt Moberg, who provides training for the Cleaning Management Institute in Latham, N.Y., says the percentage of degree-holding janitors was probably smaller before the recession, but those with four-year degrees likely are business owners or workers in online degree programs.” (Read more here.)

What do you do if you’re overqualified for your job? Can you make the job more interesting or more challenging? Can you use as a steppingstone to a more suitable job? Please share your thoughts.

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2 Responses to “The Janitor With A College Degree”

  1. Jay says:

    This speaks to more about learning than education. Abraham Lincoln was self educated and was very smart. Today, our success depends on our ability to learn well and fast, not degrees.

    Good Post.


  2. Jean-Victor Côté says:

    This also means that the job market is inefficient in assessing skills. If those that are not hired through the usual hiring process fall through the cracks and end up at the bottom of the heap, with no hope of ever using the skills that they worked so hard to acquire, then society has failed them.

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