underemployed

Pedaling his way through the City Market on Tuesday, College of Charleston graduate Hank Veach, 23, said driving a pedicab is “some of the better money I can make living in Charleston.” Another driver, Berklee School of Music graduate A.J. Hanson, 27, said, “None of us majored in tricycle-riding.”

Nate Mallard thought he would land a job at a marketing agency when he graduated from the College of Charleston in 2009.

But the 24-year-old with a bachelor’s degree in business administration is working on a maintenance crew at a low-income townhome community.

When he graduated, he sent his resume to about five agencies each week, but most of the time, he didn’t receive a response.

“I was mostly sending them off into space,” he said.

Now Mallard sends about two each month, but he still hasn’t landed a job related to his major.

Mallard’s case isn’t unusual. An analysis by The Associated Press found that about half of young college graduates are either unemployed or working in jobs outside their college majors, many of which don’t require a college degree. Landing well-paying jobs is especially important now as the cost to attend college is skyrocketing and students often graduate with a hefty load of student loan debt.

Mallard is trying to stay positive, and appreciates learning to work with his hands.

“I never thought this is where I would be, but it could be a lot worse,” he said. “I have a solid paycheck coming in every few weeks.”

Career center directors from the College of Charleston, The Citadel and the University of South Carolina acknowledge that the sluggish economy continues to make it tough for college graduates to land jobs in their fields. But they said the market is slowly improving, and graduates can improve their odds of landing a job by getting work and internship experience.

Graduates also need to remain flexible and should be willing to work part-time or in jobs outside their majors as they continue to search for employment in their career fields.

Brent Stewart, director of The Citadel’s career center, said the report was “on the pessimistic and dismal side.” It’s a tough job market, but the unemployment rate of college graduates is less than half that of the general population, he said.

Hank Veach, 23, graduated from the College of Charleston in May with a bachelor’s degree in arts management, but he drives a pedicab in the market area of downtown Charleston. It’s “some of the better money I can make living in Charleston without a real job,” he said.

He knew when he graduated that he needed internship experience if he wanted to get a job in his field, he said. But he couldn’t even find that.

A.J. Hanson, 27, who also drives a pedicab, said most downtown pedicab drivers have or are working on college degrees. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music business from the Berklee School of Music.

“None of us majored in tricycle-riding,” he said. “If you fall in love with Charleston, there aren’t a lot of jobs here.”

According to the AP report, college graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history or humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their educational level; those with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees were among the most likely.

The figures are based on an analysis of 2011 Current Population Survey data by Northeastern University researchers and supplemented with material from Paul Harrington, an economist at Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute.

About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent. Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year.

Katharine Gottfried, 28, the general manager at Yo Burrito on Wentworth Street, said working in a job outside her major was a good thing for her. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in social work, but she’ll continue to work in the food and beverage industry.

Gottfried started working at Yo Burrito because she needed to earn money, she said, but the business “just clicked for me.”

Lauren Moore, 23, graduated from the College of Charleston in December with a degree in psychology. She works part-time at Yo Burrito and part-time with autistic children, a job she hopes will become full-time soon.

The restaurant gave her a job right out of college and it will increase her income until the job in her career field becomes full-time, she said.

Moore said she understands that job prospects are limited for someone who graduates with a degree in psychology: “There’s not much you can do with a psych degree besides going to grad school.”

But she doesn’t want to enroll in graduate school until she pays her undergraduate student loans.

Even with slim job prospects, Moore said she wouldn’t discourage others from majoring in psychology.

“I would say, ‘Go for it,’ ” she said. “I didn’t want to go to school for something I’m not interested in.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.