Excerpted from WSJ By Caroline Porter
Nov. 21, 2014 12:12 p.m. ET
Already saddled with debt, students in a variety of majors, but especially within liberal-arts subjects, political science and arts programs, are finding that a bachelor’s degree often provides skills that are too general to land a job. So they are increasingly signing up for coding boot camps, online classes or going to community college. Together the options represent a developing rung in the hierarchy of higher education, modern-day finishing school.
Studies show the long-term value of a college degree in terms of lifetime employment opportunities, but in the short-run many college grads are feeling the frustration of an economy that increasingly demands specialized skills.
Recent analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that the unemployment rate for recent college graduates—while down from 7% in 2011—remains above historical standards at about 5%. And about 46% of recent college graduates are in jobs that don’t typically require degrees, as compared with about 35% for all college graduates.
A 2013 study from Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-markets analytics company, found that the number of job opportunities for liberal-arts graduates nearly doubled to 1.8 million jobs from 950,000 jobs when they had additional skills, such as marketing, data analysis and computer programming.
Joyce McKnight-Williams, interim vice chancellor of workforce and economic policy at the Dallas County Community College District, said she is seeing more degree-carrying students taking online classes at community college, especially classes for professional tracks like nursing.
“We’re seeing a lot of people, especially young people, who have come here and said, ‘I really do need work. This is the reality—I’m finding out that I can make three times as much in an applied area or workforce area, than I can in the theoretical area,’ ” Ms. McKnight-Williams said. “It’s about the money.”
With prices ranging from free to $20,000 and lasting one to eight months, coding boot camps are rising in popularity. While boot-camp graduates aren’t guaranteed to find a job, the intensive programs take students with little to no coding experience and provide them with skills for entry-level jobs. Such jobs have an average income of about $76,000, according to boot-camp directory Course Report.
Take Anthony Singiser, who discovered that he didn’t speak the language of jobs after graduating from New Jersey’s Rutgers University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. The best position he could land was as a cook earning $9 an hour, barely enough to keep up with his monthly bill to chip at about $60,000 in student loans.
The 25-year-old, who has since switched to working at Starbucks in Denver, recently enrolled in a free coding class to learn another language, one he believes will deliver more than his college degree.
“I’m trying to be less spiteful about the situation and trying to be more proactive now,” he said. “It’s funny that I’ve majored in English and I find myself illiterate in this day and age of technology.”