Now Even File Clerks Need A College Degree

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The country's current jobs crisis isn't a crisis for everyone. In February, college graduates had an unemployment rate of just 3.8 percent. But the unemployment rate for Americans over 25 with no college was over twice that, and for those without a high school diploma, a staggering 11.2 percent. Many of the jobs that traditionally didn't require a college degree, like factory work, are vanishing, but college graduates are also increasingly snagging the ones that are left.

In a CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,600 employers nationwide, conducted by Harris Interactive, almost a third of hiring managers said jobs at their companies that were historically held by people without a college education were increasingly going to applicants with degrees. In the financial industry, over half of hiring managers said this was the case, although the phenomenon was pronounced in every industry, from manufacturing to hospitality to retail.Increasingly, students need to spend four years studying, and going into debt, to get a low-wage job as a file clerk or receptionist. As The New York Times wrote last month: "The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma."

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Like in any weak economy, the demand for jobs has overtaken demand. Companies can afford to be pickier, and there are plenty of college grads willing to snap up their jobs. But this trend isn't just a symptom of a competitive job market, according to Brent Rassmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America.

Whether it's withered profit margins or global competition, companies are putting more pressure on their employees to perform. Over two thirds of the employers who responded to the survey said the reason behind the shift was that college graduates produced better work. Forty-five percent said their productivity was higher. Twenty-two percent said it came down to the company's bottom line.

The demand for college graduates has been rising for a long time, which is why their wage premium has soared -- 40 percent since 1983, reported The New York Times. Young people and their parents have gotten the memo. Three quarters of Americans believed college education was very important in a 2010 Gallup poll, compared to just 36 percent in 1978. Last year, for the first time, a third of the country's 25- to 29-year-olds had earned a bachelor's degree.

But precisely because that number is now so high, employers may assume applicants without a four-year college on their resume are less career-oriented or capable. And so for the vast majority of Americans who do not have a bachelor's degree, the pickings become much slimmer. It's a domino effect: A person who 10 years ago qualified for a skilled office job suddenly finds himself processing paperwork. The paperwork processor suddenly finds herself behind a Burger King counter. The Burger King cashier suddenly finds himself out of work.
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