In the United States, a college degree is seen as a golden ticket to a successful career.

But how many people use their degrees in their work? This is what we will be addressing in this article.

We will address some factors that now influence how a college degree helps or hinders certain majors.

Over 80% of college graduates say they are having a difficult to very difficult time finding a job, in or out of their field of study.

Let’s look at the statistics about college degrees and how many people are using theirs. 

Key Statistics

  • Only 27.3% of college graduates work in the field of their degree.
  • 62.1% of college grads don’t work in their major field.
  • 38% of people with a bachelor’s degree say they would have chosen a different major.
  • 48% of college grads with humanitarian or arts degrees said they would have studied something different.
  • Only 24% of those with engineering degrees say they wish they had studied something different.
  • 84% of college grads have trouble finding work.
  • 40% of recent college graduates have had to lower salary expectations.
  • 34% of college grads could have been hired in their current jobs without getting a degree.

How Many People Use Their Degrees in 2024?

College Degrees

According to the Washington Post and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27.3% of college graduates work in the field of their degree.

That means that only one-quarter of college graduates work in a job or career that matches their degree major.

In contrast, the study showed that 62.1% of college graduates who have jobs aren’t working in what they majored in, or they aren’t even working in a job that requires a degree. 

Moreover, 38% of college graduates with a bachelor’s degree say they would have chosen a different major (studied something else in college). 

(Federal Reserve Bank of New York, WTOP News, Washington Post)

How Does the Field of Study Play a Role in Using a College Degree?

Let’s face it, with so many college graduates not working in their chosen field, do they wish they had studied something different by choosing a different major?

48% of college grads with humanitarian or arts degrees said they would have studied something different.

In this study, these college graduates wished they could travel back in time and select a different major, or area of study.

However, among STEM graduates, engineering grads had the least regrets at 24% wishing they had gone a different direction.

Likewise, information and computer science (32%) and physical science and math graduates (33%) seem mostly satisfied with their choices in majors. 

This study showed that there are few college/university graduates who said if they could go back in time, they would have completed less education, not more.

What is Impacting the Lowered Use of College Degrees?

As with most things in life, there are factors that impact society as given times in the world.

Here are some of the things that are impacting why college graduates aren’t using their college degrees today.

The Changing Job Market

The American job market is constantly changing and goes through periods where jobs, especially in certain fields, decline.

This is a contributing factor to the high rate of underemployment among graduates.  

So, the current nature of the job market is making it harder to get certain jobs.

In fact, we see that 84% of college grads have trouble finding work at all.

Higher College/University Tuition and Costs

Yes. It costs significantly more for students to go to university or college today than it did when their parents went.

The higher costs make it harder to get your higher education, but more than that, harder to decide what field you want to study. 

This is seen in the 40% of college graduates who have had to lower their salary expectations.

Furthermore, 34% of college graduates don’t even need their degree to work in their current job.

Emotionally Unprepared for 9 to 5 Jobs


Sadly, recent college/university graduates aren’t emotionally prepared to work a traditional, 9-to-5 job these days.

This factor is also affecting the overall underemployment and the inability to find work in a field. 

One psychology professor says these graduates are experiencing more depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts among other mental health issues.

It’s believed that the global pandemic changed the job market and the emotional state of today’s students from elementary school to college.

This could eventually result in shorter workdays or work weeks. Trials for a 4-day work week model is being studied. 

(ABC 7 News, ABC 7 News 2, Moneywise, NIH, WTOP)

Other factors that may influence the job market for recent college graduates:

The lack of work experience should be a given and understood regarding recent grads, but an internship can help you get real-world experience and increase the chances of getting a job.

Gaps in their skillset or having no practical or valuable skills to do the job.

Fierce competition is happening now due to so many layoffs in America and people seeking jobs. 

Uncertainty with their major, which relates to not having any more interest in their career field or opportunities. 

The lack of following up after an interview is one of the things new college graduates are not doing but should be doing.



At the end of the day, students need to be more realistic about their expectations when they go to college.

They need to understand that a college degree is not a guarantee of a high-paying job

Moreover, students need to be prepared to work hard to find a job that utilizes their skills and knowledge.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to get and use a degree is personal and it’s up to you.

There is no right or wrong answer, and what is right for one person may not be right for another. 

However, it’s wise to be well informed about the factors that can affect the decisions you make, so you can make decisions that are best for you.

We hope this article has helped you in some way to learn more about getting a degree and if your chosen passion is worth paying the excessive cost of getting a degree. 

Also, we hope that we have answered the question: “How many people use their degrees” in an understandable and adequate way.


ABC 7 NewsABC 7 News 2Federal Reserve Bank of New York
WTOP NewsWashington Post