February 01, 2015

Expectations vs. Realities for New Grads

The recently released 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey by Accenture compares the expectations and perceptions of 2014’s college graduates with the realities of the workplace experienced by both 2012 and 2013 graduates.

Recent graduates report that they are underemployed and working in jobs that do not require the degree that they hold. However, for 2015, employers expect to hire 8.3 percent more new college graduates than they did from the Class of 2014, according to a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Expectations vs. Realities for Grads

Expectations vs. Realities for Grads

Source: Accenture

On-the-Job Training

Approximately 80 percent of 2014 grads expect that their employer will provide a formal training program, but the percentage of graduates actually receiving training is low. Only 48 percent of new college graduates in the workforce received formal training in their first job.


Nearly half (46 percent) of recent college graduates working today report that they are significantly underemployed (meaning that their jobs do not depend on their college degree). While 84 percent of 2014 graduates believe that they will find employment in their chosen field, only 46 percent of 2012/2013 grads report holding a full-time job, and 13 percent have been unemployed since graduating.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, underemployment is at 16.8 percent for workers younger than 25 as of May 2014.

Furthermore, more than half of recent college graduates have already left their first jobs or expect to leave within one or two years.


According to the 2013 Accenture survey, 43 percent of respondents expect to earn more than $40,000 per year in their first job. However, only 21 percent of the 2012 and 2013 graduates are actually earning at that level. Over a quarter (26 percent) of these graduates report earning less than $19,000 annually.

Meanwhile, 28 percent of recent graduates will owe more than $30,000 in debt. More than one-third (42 percent) of 2012 and 2013 graduates live at home after graduation.

Adapting to the Market

Graduates and recent hires are doing research while still in college, and trying to make themselves more market relevant. Approximately three-quarters of those graduating in 2014 took into account the availability of jobs in their field before deciding on their major.

A Job Outlook 2015 report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that at the bachelor’s degree level, graduates in the business, engineering, and computer/information science fields are most sought after by employers.

Similarly, universities are helping graduates by adapting their curricula to provide the education that graduates will need for their chosen career. Universities are also providing job search and recruiting assistance to graduates and alumni as well. Approximately 63 percent of 2014’s graduating students believe that their university was effective in helping them to find employment opportunities.

Recent graduates are willing to be flexible, with 74 percent saying that they would be willing to relocate to another state to find work.

Recent research by the Harvard Business Review indicates that while demand is growing for middle-skill (those that require more education and training than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year college degree) workers, the U.S. educational system is producing fewer graduates at this level.

Projected Job Openings vs. Degrees & Certificates Granted

Projected Job Openings vs. Degrees & Certificates Granted

Source: HBR