Overeducated for Your First Job? That Might Cost You Later

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A recent study says being overqualified for a first job after college can deflate your earnings now and into the future.

New college graduates might want to think twice before accepting a waitperson job. A new study suggests that your first job may have wage implications for years to come.

Based on 35 years of research, economists from Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that graduates who took a job they were overqualified for earned a smaller salary than their similarly educated peers, even up to a decade later. Time said:

In other words, starting off in a position that doesn’t match your education level can slow you down later in life.

That’s bad news for many students who find themselves taking any job they can get in a tough job market, especially when they have student loans to pay off.

It can be challenging to break free of underemployment. “After one year of being overeducated, 66 percent of these workers remained overeducated,” Vox said.

Overeducated workers have broad, long-lasting implications for the economy. Vox said:

These results also imply one way the economy will continue to underperform, even as the recession continues to recede in the rearview mirror. If all of those overeducated people persistently earn well below what they could have otherwise earned, it means less spending and less growth as well, in addition to the fact that all of those overeducated people are underutilized human capital.

After I graduated from college, I took a $7-an-hour job as a receptionist for about five months before I was hired as a reporter. Was I overeducated for that first job? Absolutely. And did I make embarrassingly low wages for years afterward? Yes. But I don’t know in my case if there was a link between being overeducated and underpaid for the next 10 years.

Regardless of my personal experience, this research certainly makes the case for being selective when choosing your first job after graduation.

What was your first job after college? Do you think it hurt your career? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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