Average Time to Get a Job After Graduation in 2021

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The average time to get a job after graduation is 3 to 6 months for most students.

Average Time to Get a Job After Graduation

Finding employment after graduation can take a varying amount of time due to many factors.

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These factors include where you live, the type of degree and industry you want to work in, economic conditions, and more.

Average Time to Get a Job after Graduation

Get a Job after Graduation

According to figures from researchers at the University of Washington, the average job search time for college graduates is 6 months. Recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York suggests that 41% of college graduates may experience underemployment.

The industry you’re in can impact how quickly you find employment after college graduation, as can timing, geography, and other factors. Generally speaking, though, more learning typically leads to better earnings, even if finding the right job sometimes takes time.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on average, people with higher levels of educational attainment have higher employment rates compared to those with less education. In 2019, the employment rate for college graduates was 87% compared to only 74% for those who only had high school diplomas (NCES).

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In addition to focusing attention on getting your degree, it can be helpful to think early on about other ways to position yourself for better job outcomes. Here are some things that can help:

  • Do your homework: Learning about practical opportunities in fields that interest you can help you make better choices about which degree programs you pursue. It can also be beneficial to research the real skills employers want for entry-level jobs
  • Consider how schools rank when it comes to school-to-career services: In addition to checking out schools for their academic rigor, consider asking questions about their school-to-work programs. You may want to research their career center services, graduate employment rates, and professional licensing programs.
  • Have a clear focus: Focus and perseverance can help you get a better job outcome. It’s not easy being unemployed. Taking your focus off of your career, though, to work in a job you are overqualified for or outside your desired career may hinder your chances to build credentials or relevant professional networks.

To improve your chances of finding a job after graduation, consider being proactive and diligent about researching career opportunities and relevant skills. If available, it can be beneficial to take advantage of career services at your college as well.

What to Do after College?

What to Do after College

What can you do after college if you don’t find a job at first? It may be difficult, but while trying to find a job, it can be helpful to be patient, focused, and accepting of the need for flexibility.

If you have a well-thought-out plan, try to stick with it. Networking, searching for internships, doing some additional study, or volunteering can help you building the skills you need to get the job you really want.

If you find a good internship, try to make it work financially. Also, if it’s a necessary tradeoff for getting a good job after college, try to be flexible enough to consider relocating.

Here are some things you can do to increase your job opportunities after college:

  • Networking: Some people think it’s their resume that will get them a job. While resumes certainly matter, it’s people who hire other people. Making genuine connections with other people can help you find the job you desire.
  • Internships: Internships can give you opportunities to get practical on-the-job skills and exposure. Internships that are aligned with your career interests can help you get your foot in the door. Internships can also help you build your professional network.
  • Entry-level, freelance, and temp work: It may be necessary to take an entry-level, freelance, or temp job that’s not exactly what you’re pursuing. If so, looking for jobs that demonstrate meaningful skills and reflect positively on your character and passions can still be beneficial for your future career plans.

Short-term detours can be a distraction, so it can be helpful to make sure that whatever your stop-gap is leaves you time and energy to keep pursuing your long-term goals.

Why Is It So Hard to Get a Job after College?

Get a Job after College

In some cases, the job you studied for in college is harder to get simply because it’s the kind of job that has a higher bar for entry. It may require more skills, pay more money, and attract more qualified candidates.

Other reasons getting a job after college can be hard are timing, job market status, and changing economic and industry trends that impact hiring. Macroeconomic factors, such as high unemployment or moratoriums on hiring due to slow economic expansion, can also have an impact.

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Being committed to full-time study, in-person or online, can also end up socially isolating some people, which can make it difficult to have professional networks after graduating. You may also find there is a disconnect between the systematic and theoretical concepts you’ve been studying and the experience-based, practical skills that interest employers.

How to Find a Job after College

Find a Job after College

Many factors can impact your job search and the outcomes you experience.  There are some steps that can help you improve your chances for finding better job opportunities though.

Here are some tips that can help you improve your chances of finding a job after college:

  • Engage in professional networking, such as joining professional associations, while you’re still in school and after graduating.
  • Polish your resume, craft targeted cover letters, and let prospective employers know about your interests, enthusiasm, and qualifications.
  • Consider seeking out and applying for internships in addition to jobs.
  • If you think it’s going to take time to find a job, consider doing some freelance work to earn money while acquiring some practical skills to highlight on your resume

Taking practical steps to build a career pathway while you’re in school studying for your degree can help you have a more satisfying job search after you graduate.

Do You Really Need to Get a Job Right after You Graduate?

Get a Job Right after You Graduate

The answer to this depends on your personal goals. If you do take a so-called gap year, how it affects your job search later depends on how you spend that year. For example, studying abroad or working with the Peace Corps could help you enhance your resume.

That said, taking a gap year might mean trying to figure out how to handle a corresponding gap in your resume if you really didn’t do much professionally or academically during that year off.

Not all industries and sectors are the same. In some sectors, such as business, accounting, law, and consulting, large firms might begin engaging new recruits as much as a whole year before they even graduate from college.

If you have options to get recruited straight from school into a good job, you’ll have to decide if a gap year is still a good idea or not.

When to Start Applying for Jobs before Graduation

Start Applying for Jobs before Graduation

It can be beneficial to start researching prospective employers a whole year before you graduate. This can give you time to consider the kinds of jobs and employers you want to seek out and research prospective employers.

During the fall and winter of your last year of school, it can be helpful to seek advice and resources from your school’s career center and start networking. As graduation day draws nearer, you can start reaching out to prospective employers or responding to relevant job postings.

Many industries engage prospective graduates and start recruiting them well before they graduate. If you’re in one of these fields, it’s likely your professors and career advisors will share information about how and when you can connect with firms that are recruiting.

How Long Are You Considered a Recent Graduate?

According to the U.S. Department of State Recent Graduates Program, people are considered recent graduates for 2 years after graduating from college. For most employers, a recent graduate is someone who has been out of school for less than 3 years.

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When you’re no longer a recent graduate, it’s possible that finding your first job in your field of study will be harder. Employers may be concerned that you’ll be less successful making the transition to work or make assumptions about your qualifications based on your lack of employment.

How Much Does the Average College Graduate Make?

Average College Graduate salary

The degree you have, the industry you work in, and even where you live can affect your earnings.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn around $54,000 on average. With a graduate degree, average earnings jump up to $65,000.

While individual experiences can vary greatly due to many factors, having more education typically increases your earning potential.

When Should You Start Working after College?

Start Working after College

The answer to this depends on your personal goals. In some fields, such as banking, accounting, and consulting, large firms with onboarding and training programs may start recruiting before students start their senior year.

Hiring conversations may even begin during junior-year summer internships. Smaller companies are likely to try to engage young recruits in the spring of their senior year or during the summer and fall months after graduation.

Some people like the idea of taking a break after graduation. If your college offers school-to-work pipelines to help you get hired, though, it could be beneficial to capitalize on those opportunities, even if it means starting work right after college.

Ultimately, your decision about when to start working is a personal choice, but it might be good to consider how your career decisions can impact your job search and job opportunities.

You Have Your Degree, Now What?

job after graduation

Once you have your degree, you’ll likely have new opportunities you’ve never had before, even if you don’t get a job right after graduation. The right training, skills, licensing, and industry certifications can help you position yourself for more meaningful and better-paying career opportunities.

Researching the many schools that offer convenient, online learning options can be a strategic choice as well. Many of them have practical programs and resources designed to help students transition from school to work more successfully.

Plus, if you find that you have a lot of college credits but no degree, online programs may help you finish your degree while keeping up with your career and family obligations.

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Keith Nickolaus
WRITTEN BY
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and Master's in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a Bachelor's in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in innovation, policy, and education leadership.