Jobless grads: What they would've done differently

(MoneyWatch) The employment figures look bleak for recent college graduates.

According to a new survey from Rutgers University, only 51% of young grads have full-time employment and many are working at jobs that don't require a college degree. Another 20% are in a graduate or professional school.

Students who graduated in 2009 or later are earning a median salary of just $27,000. That's $3,000 less than students who earned their degree before the recession. With an oversupply of eager young workers, employers can afford to be chintzy. Only 37% of employed grads were earning a salary at their first job while nearly all the rest have worked for hourly wages.

Advice from college grads

How can current college students avoid the fate of so many recent grads?

When asked what they would have done different, 29% of grads in the Rutgers survey said they would have pursued more internships or worked part-time in college. Students who completed at least one internship earned a salary that was nearly 15% higher. Sixty five percent of students who completed internships said college prepared them either extremely well or did a pretty good job in preparing them to get a job, compared with 44% of those who did not intern.

Twenty four percent of grads would have started looking for a job much sooner while they were still in college. Thirty seven percent of grads said they would have been more careful about selecting their majors or would have chosen a different one.

Among grads who would have picked different majors, here are the ones they favored:

  • 41% Vocational majors such as education, nursing, communications, social work.
  • 29% STEM majors - science, technology, engineering and math.
  • 17% Business such as finance and accounting
  • 7% Social sciences such as psychology, sociology, economics, political science.
  • 4% Humanities, such as English, history, art, foreign language.

Tellingly, only 23% of grads believe they can have a successful career with just a bachelor's degree. Nearly two-thirds think they will need additional education or have already gone back to school.