New college grads too optimistic about job prospects

The college seniors who will graduate in the next few weeks have unrealistic expectations of the job market they are entering, according to a new national survey.

Only 18 percent of 2014 graduates expect to earn $25,000 or less, but more than 41 percent of 2012 and 2013 graduates are earning salaries in that range, according to the Accenture 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey.

The survey of more than 2,000 students also uncovered a disconnect in workplace training. A large percentage of new grads (80 percent) believe they will receive formal on-the-job training, but only 48 percent of recent grads said they received any.

Meanwhile, 46 percent of workers who graduated from college in the past two years say they are underemployed and working in jobs that do not require their college degrees. That's an increase from 41 percent of recent grads, surveyed in 2013, who said they didn't need their degrees for the work they were doing.

At the time the Accenture survey was conducted in March, only 11 percent of the new grads had secured a job, compared to 16 percent for last year's graduates.

Another survey released this week from AfterCollege, an online entry-level job and internship resource, showed that 17 percent of grads had jobs lined up as of April, with nearly 73 percent of college seniors saying they were looking for work. At this time last year, 20 percent of seniors had jobs, according to the survey.

Students with degrees that are supposedly in demand did not fare any better in finding work, according to the AfterCollege survey. Nearly 82 percent of students with degrees in engineering, technology and math hadn't found jobs.

Despite a depressed job market, the Accenture survey shows that new college grads remain optimistic. Eighty-four percent of these young Americans expect to find a job in their chosen field. The reality is that only 67 percent of recent grads ended up in their chosen field.

What's clear is that internships represent a good way to break into the job market. Sixty-nine percent of the grads in 2012 and 2013 participated in an internship while in school, and 36 percent of these grads said their internships led to jobs.

As new grads seek employment, they must grapple with repaying their student debt. According to the Accenture research, 68 percent of grads will leave college with student debt. Among borrowers, 41 percent incurred debt of $30,000 or less, while 16 percent borrowed up to $50,000. Sixty-one percent of grads say they plan to pay off their debt without help from their parents.

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