Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
STUDENT LIFE / MAR. 08, 2014
version 2, draft 2

Underqualified and Overqualified – Are Graduates or Employers at Fault?

Graduates working in jobs they’re overqualified for is something that’s afflicted both sides of the Atlantic. Here in the UK, half of recent graduates are in non-graduate roles, according to stats supplied by the Financial Times. America is having the same problem, and it’s something that’s ruining this current generation.

There are also situations where graduates aren’t ready for the world of work. With many universities seemingly failing to get their students into worthwhile roles, who’s at fault?

The Needs of the Employer

It’s a fact that the value of a degree is only what the labour market considers it to be worth. If employers declared the degree as irrelevant tomorrow, it would become worthless. There would be nothing universities could do about it.

This illustrates an important point. You’re attending university to fulfil the needs of a future employer. The number one goal of a university is to facilitate this.

And the figures say they’re failing in this goal. Half of bosses in the UK, according to Graduate Fog, state that graduates aren’t ready for the world of work.

They don’t say this in the sense that they aren’t intelligent enough. It’s a case of lacking the correct experience. They don’t have the discipline to do things like make it in on time and listen to instructions.

If this is truly the case, we can’t in good conscience blame employers for this. Once their needs stop being fulfilled it becomes a problem of the education system.

And we can’t talk about employers as if they have an obligation to support future generations. We live in a globalised world now. UK students have to compete with those from China, Japan, France, and Sweden. Employers who can’t find suitable workers here will simply look abroad.

They’re there to make money and nothing more.

What about Graduates?

To an extent, graduates have left themselves in a vulnerable position. There are hundreds of available university courses throughout the world today. It doesn’t mean that employers necessarily care about these courses.

We’ve all heard the stories about graduates leaving their degrees off their applications to find work. And this might become increasingly necessary. Employers don’t just look at the subject for what it’s worth.
They want to see that you made a good decision in your choice of degree. If they saw your degree and saw that you took a course in Golf Course Management Studies, what are they going to think?

They’re going to assume you weren’t thinking about the long-term and that you never harboured any ambitions about working in the job you’re applying to.

It wouldn’t be right to blame graduates for this, though. Many of them were encouraged by their colleges and high schools to pursue specific career paths. We have to lie some of the blame at the feet of an uninformed education system.

A Question of Numbers

It’s not always a case of qualifications that causes many graduates to be left behind. Sometimes it’s a matter of numbers. The economy can only support so many graduates with the same degree.

It’s an uncomfortable truth that colleges and universities don’t like to talk about. They want to push education. What they don’t want to do is make it seem like exactly what it is; revolving around economic factors.

This is the same problem they have in America. Mark Hendrickson, writing for, wrote that 80,000 students graduated with a psychology degree over the last few years. There are nowhere near enough posts to support this many people with psychology degrees.

Universities aren’t going to say anything, though. They’re businesses. They need students to fill the courses or they lose out on vital funding. What happens after a student leaves university isn’t their problem.

It’s unfair, but that’s the reality of the situation.

So Who is Really at Fault?

Everyone has their own goals and visions. Graduates who want to avoid ending up in a job they’re overqualified for should educate themselves. They need to educate themselves on their prospects before choosing a course, or consider retraining.

Image Credit: Flickr user think jose

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