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Half of Associate Degree Holders Are Underemployed

Topics: Data & Research

During an era when the cost of higher education is at an all-time high, most students have equally high expectations that earning a college degree will provide a better chance at attaining a job in their field. Unfortunately, the reality is that not all degrees are equal, and the people who are trying to save on their college tuition are suffering the most in the workforce. Take a look at the data from PayScale’s latest underemployment study to see what I mean.

associate degree

(Source: Michael Long/Flickr)

Compared to Other Degrees, Associate Degree Holders Suffer the Most Underemployment

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In our latest study, we surveyed over 900,000 workers to find out whether or not they believe they are underemployed. Additionally, we wanted to understand not only who is underemployed, but the level of degree the workers attained. Finally, we asked, why are so many college degree holders underemployed?

From this chart, we can see that the higher your degree level, the less likely it is that you will find yourself underemployed, which for the most part makes a lot of sense.

The Social Implications of Underemployment

Generally, people choose to get an associate degree because it’s not as costly as a four-year degree and takes less time to complete. But, it’s still a college degree, nonetheless, and it should be enough to get the average person a well-paying job.

So why are the people who are trying to save the most money on college having the hardest time getting a job in their field of study, thus making even less money than they should be? The truth is, we really don’t know. But what we do know is that of those associate degree holders who say they are underemployed, 24 percent are working part-time jobs, and 76 percent say they are not using their formal education or training. Here is the full breakdown compared to the other degrees.


Overall, 46 percent of the people we surveyed believe they are underemployed. Millennials were hit the hardest; Gen Y workers were more underemployed than any other generation. And it’s even worse for those who get an associate degree, because from an outside perspective, it almost feels like they are being punished for not going into debt to pay for their college tuition.

Tell Us What You Think!

Why do you think associate degree holders are the most underemployed? Do you think its fair? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter!

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Self-reported? Who doesn’t think they are underemployed? This is junk science….

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