It’s hard to be a bright-eyed, ambitious college student when everywhere you look, people are shouting that the sky is falling.
With constant concern over the unemployment rate and the economy, it seems degrees don’t guarantee the middle-class life that they once could – not even in theology and faith-based majors.
At Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., 30 percent of graduates of the school of religion were still seeking advanced employment six months after they graduated, according to the Office of Career Services at Belmont.
“Advanced employment” includes jobs that require more education than a high-school diploma.
“Over the past three years, we’ve noticed a trend of more underemployment,” says Belmont University’s director of career services, Patricia Jacobs.
Underemployment, she explains, occurs when many individuals are competing for jobs, so someone with ample experience must settle for a job they’re overqualified for. They won’t get the pay or the opportunities they might deserve, but it’s employment so they’ll take it.
Meanwhile, recent, adequately experienced graduates looking for jobs are competing with these overqualified individuals. They don’t stand a chance.
But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And those in religious majors may be on the smoother track toward it if they pursue graduate school.
Of last year’s graduates in the school of religion at Belmont, 47 percent went on to graduate school.
By the time they complete their graduate degrees, the economy is projected to have more opportunities for them than it’s had in years.
“Employers are now more optimistic about the college labor market than at any time since 2007,” according to the annual study of Recruiting Trends from Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute (2012).
Overall, Jacobs says Belmont’s school of religion graduates who go on to graduate school may not have been hurt by the economy as much as those who went out into a career search right away.
And their timing was inadvertently spot-on. They’ve dodged the bullet of the discouraging job climate for the past couple of years.
And by the time they graduate with their higher degree, they’ll emerge into a more welcoming economy, with more accreditation to their name.
“It may be that if you want to pursue religious studies, you just need to consider graduate school,” says Jacobs.
It may be a good time to be a college student in theology after all – if you’re willing and able to go the distance.
Jessica Adkins is a journalism student at Belmont University and an intern at EthicsDaily.com.