284,000 College Graduates Worked Minimum Wage Jobs In 2012

April 2, 2013  |  


AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, file

According to The Wall Street Journal, about 284,000 American college graduates were working minimum wage jobs last year. This may seem like a lot, but it’s no match for the over 327,000 degree holders working minimum wage jobs in 2010. This number suggests that about 8 percent of minimum wage workers possessed at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012.

Three-fifths of the jobs that were lost during the economic down turn were proportionately replaced by low-wage work. Many question if public money is being spent to provide students with education that over qualifies them for the jobs that are actually available in the workforce. And with one in five American households carrying student loan debt, it will be tough to pay back your educational expenses on a minimum wage salary.

Graduating from school and having to work for minimum wage surely might feel like a kick to the gut, but surely the over 22 percent of unemployed African Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 would be more than willing to accept a minimum wage job.

With these numbers in mind, let’s jump to conclusions and think that earning a college degree is not the way to go. Pew Research shows that college graduates are likely to earn nearly double the income in a 40 year career than a person with just a high school diploma. Although this may be so, when determining your major be sure to know if your expertise will actually be in demand after graduation otherwise you could find yourself being another highly educated minimum wage worker.

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  • Ky92

    I am currently in college and my degree is in technology/business and I believe that I can get a well paying job when I am finished. However, I think that instead of everyone simply getting jobs, We as African Americans should start building more businesses. If you look at any other race when it comes to employment, even with large corporations, people tend to look out for their own. I happen to work at a small business African American woman owned business where all of our employees are African Americans. I believe the unemployment level would change if we worked on this. I know starting a business isn’t easy, but what is?

  • Trisha_B

    A lot of my friends graduated last year, & not a single one is working in their degree. They got degrees like sociology, psychology, etc & they aren’t even putting them to use. & i ask them what was the point of even choosing that major. One told me they just picked the easiest one just so they could say they went to college & have a degree. o_O I think the problem is, before entering college a lot of people don’t know what they want to do as a career. I feel they should start having more courses in high school that have a variety of careers b/c some kids aren’t exposed to much & don’t know what kind of career would fit them best. I know in my high school, we had academy’s you joined in your sophomore year. There was a business academy health care academy, & a list of others where you would take classes regarding the academy you chose to get a feel of what the career actually consisted of. & It help me see what kind of work i was interested in. I have people get on me b/c i’m still in college (i’m in my 5th yr) I’m majoring in Nursing w/ a minor in nutrition. I just let them get on me b/c why rush to get out of college if i’m a be making the same amount of money as those who just have a high school diploma or less? I refuse to leave my university w/out a CAREER. I’m not going back to a job smh

  • rainydaze80

    This problem is two-fold. Part of it is that college is not preparing people for the jobs available and as a result of this, companies fill these jobs with immigrants on an H-1B visa or just pick up and move overseas. The reality is old ways and methods are not going to get us out of this bad economy. The jobs in demand right now are in the technology sector. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to be an engineer, but majoring in Medieval French literature isn’t enough to get you the job anymore. Even if you want to be a writer, you need to have a background in desktop publishing. Also, a background in business is very helpful. I studied foreign languages and international business, so when things got tough, I set up a freelance translation business to help get me through. More and more, people get their degree to start up their own business, so classes in entrepreneurship are useful no matter what your major is. We need to start including some technical and business oriented aspects to university curriculum, so that graduates come into the real world better equipped to handle a changing job market.

    • Cori

      Thank you!! The problem is not that there are no jobs available the problems is that most people looking for work are not qualified to do the jobs that are available. What’s going to happen when more jobs become obsolete because of technology? The government cannot tell business owners not to convert their businesses to self check out to save the cashier jobs.

      • cori

        I meant “the problem is that…”

      • rainydaze80

        I agree Cori, and that’s why I get annoyed when I hear Obama talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US. We can’t compete with China, India and Malaysia when it comes to manufacturing. They don’t play by the same rules (labor laws and the like). Just let them have it. Let’s work educating tomorrow’s professionals. Let’s bring down the cost of education.

        • Fair and Balanced

          Obama is not here to help us succeed, he is here to help us fail. Look at the people in his cabinet, look who he listens to and you will see that we are not apart of his agenda we are instead a nuisance to him one that he is extremely good at ignoring.


    Hope & Change aka hopeless and pocket change!

    • Fair and Balanced

      I agree hope and change is definitely pocket change. The economy has gotten much worse for everyone but especially Blacks, I have 2 MS degrees both in current demand, I also have the experience of over 20 years and am currently finishing up my Ph.D and am unemployed. The change we received is simple change for the much worse and the hope we received is that we find anything that can help us survive. The hope and change we need is to now allow this government to break us. We have to keep knocking until the door opens because quite frankly the government is trying to really break those of us who already have a hard time. We would be screaming bloody murder if the President was Caucasian why are so many willing to give this one a pass. He has done nothing with hope and change but insure that we stay 3rd class just look at his cabinet and those he seek advice from the answer is quite clear.

      • TRUTH IS

        Girl black folks have it the worst. I see it everyday even where I work. Black with masters get looked over for the white with BA…I cant get any more angrier. I wont….its a catch 22….they will tell you you are overqualified. Sad but true. They dont want to pay you. AM done with college until I can get a proper paying job. My biggest concern is why Obama, signed this law for Monsano to poison us all. These are my frustration because educated or not we will poisoned.

        • Fair and Balanced

          Obama could care less I never had any expectations of him doing anything to better Black America what I did expect from him is not to hurt us. This man is a complete and utter disaster on America especially Black America as is the Black Caucus and the rest of these so called leaders. I like you have been in a position where I was making $40,000 less than a Caucasian woman with a high school diploma they do not want to pay us and are continuously getting away with it. The really sad thing is as Blacks we do not leverage our power and continue to be taken for granted by our so called leadership local and national as well as the others who claim representation of the Black community this is why we are moving to 3rd class citizen status. Girl my advice to you is to go it on your own and trust in God you will make it just stay on the right side anyone and anything trying to bring you down cut them especially those that look like us as we already know who not to trust on the other side. Hang in there and God bless!

          • TRUTH IS

            Stories upon stories my white counterparts make at least 10k more than me without a BA and I have a BA….tell me about it then they have the audacity to say black women bitter and angry. We dont win. I expect nothing from anyone. Obama might be a black prez but white folks pulling his strings. America is a business…corporations run ish. I wish the same for you dear. Be of courage and hopefully God will see us through.

  • alli1234

    I’m in school now and it worries me that if I pick the wrong degree, I will have to work at McDonalds and still have to pay back the student loans.

    • Fresh45

      The only time a person can pick the wrong degree,is when they’re doing something they get a degree in something they don’t really love doing. Regardless of how much money it makes.

    • Kenedy

      Its definitely a catch 22….Do you major in something that you love and are passionate about, but know you won’t find a job after graduating? Or do you do what brings you money, but you will be miserable

    • rainydaze80

      You’ll probably have to work at McDo part-time regardless to pay back those student loans. Definitely choose a major that interests you, but think about what you want to do in the long run. Do you want to go the corporate route? Start up your own company? Work for the gov’t? White collar professional? Just make the most of your studies and don’t be afraid to look for opportunities abroad!

  • Ebby

    Because you have people in their late 60’s and 70’s holding on to those jobs and don’t want t retire. Therefore preventing new graduates to do the job.

    • TRUTH IS

      And jobs being shipped overseas….

    • Kenedy

      And not to mention baby boomers who were laid off, and are now competing with recent grads for jobs, and have decades of experience of these recent grads