College is out and, for millions of newly minted graduates, it's time to get a job. While the job market has recovered from its lowest recessionary levels, more than 11 percent of recent grads remain unemployed and almost 50 percent are underemployed. Worse yet, as a National Bureau of Economic Research study reveals, people who enter the job market when salaries are low can take 10 years or more to catch up to where they would have been if they had entered during a hotter period.
Under the circumstances, it isn't hard to see why some people want to hold off on entering the job market; after all, the decision to wait a few years in order to start work when salaries are higher can have a major payoff, especially for people who use their time productively. With that in mind, here are a few great ways to delay launch -- and a few important things to consider when deciding on your next move.
Delayed Launch: How (and Why) to Postpone Your Job Market Debut
The classic method for avoiding the job market, graduate school has the added benefit of -- under the right circumstances -- making you look even more attractive to employers and recruiters. On the other hand, a poorly-chosen degree can also leave you with even more debt and no improvement in your job prospects.
If you qualify for a fellowship, assistantship, or scholarship that will cover your tuition costs and give you a stipend, going for an advanced degree becomes a no-brainer. While grad stipends are far from princely, with careful planning, you may be able to get out of grad school with no increase in debt, a degree that will likely improve your employability, and a shot at job-hunting in a friendlier environment. That being said, it especially helps if your degree is in a high-paying field. Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce offers some useful information on choosing the advanced degrees with the best returns on investment.
There's an old saying: If you have to pay for grad school, you probably shouldn't be there. In other words, if you can't get an assistantship or fellowship, you might want to reconsider your postgraduate education. For that matter, if you're carrying a lot of private student loan debt, you might want to hold off even for a program with a stipend: Those loans, unlike the government-backed variety, won't be deferred while you're in grad school, so if you take one of those not-so-generous stipends, keeping up with your payments will likely be difficult.
Another classic method for postponing the day you have to get a "real" job, the Peace Corps gives young people the opportunity to travel the world, see exciting things, and make new friends. And, when you get back, you'll have the added benefit of foreign language skills and a great line on your résumé.
If you're interested in seeing the world, aren't averse to living surrounded by extreme poverty, and aren't carrying much private loan debt, the Peace Corps can be a great choice. During your time in the corps, your federal student loans -- and some private loans -- will be deferred, and your Perkins loans may even be partially forgiven. And, when you get back home, you'll have a readjustment allowance to help you get back into the swing of things.
The Peace Corps doesn't pay much, which can make your financial life difficult if you're carrying a lot of private loan debt. For that matter, the Corps has recently had problems with ensuring the safety of its volunteers, which could be a serious problem, depending on where you're posted. Beyond that, if you aren't sure you'll be able to adapt to living in rougher circumstances, surrounded by extreme poverty, you may want to think twice about signing up.
If you're looking for a way to enter into the teaching profession, or if you just want to try out being in front of a classroom for a few years, consider Teach for America. The program places college graduates into low-income classrooms across the country, offering them a salary, loan forbearance, money for education, and -- when they leave -- up to $6,000 in loans and grants to help them get reintegrated into society.
If you're interested in teaching, are enthused about the idea of working with low-income students, and don't have a lot of outstanding private loans, Teach for America can be a great bet. It looks good on a résumé, and is an excellent way to get started in teaching.
This is going to start to sound repetitious, but it keeps applying: if you're carrying a lot of private loan debt, Teach for America may not be for you. Even if you can get a deferment on your loan, you'll still be accumulating interest, which will leave you further in the red. Beyond that, if you are uncomfortable living and working in lower-income areas, this program is definitely not for you.
Interested in joining the Peace Corps, but don't want to get vaccinated for yellow fever? If so, AmeriCorps might be the choice for you. Working in education, public safety, environmental protection and health care, it places volunteers with dozens of different programs. Depending on your placement, AmeriCorps service could land you in a classroom or the field, building houses or working with FEMA. Benefits also vary greatly, depending on the program, but can include a living allowance, childcare stipends, an education benefit, and some health care.
AmeriCorps members may qualify for up to $5,550 in education assistance, which can be used to pay off existing loans or to fund further schooling. Additionally, the childcare allowance can make it more attractive to people with children. And, as an added benefit, your volunteer work could help you pick up some marketable skills.
AmeriCorps' education assistance is not as impressive as the benefits offered by other programs, which may make it less attractive if you're carrying a heavy student loan burden. Also, because the work placements vary so widely, there's a good chance that your skills may not be all that marketable.