The Underemployed

The Underemployment Big Picture

Nearly half of American workers identify themselves as underemployed, according to PayScale’s research. But who are they? What jobs do they hold? And how does education play a role? Read on to learn more about the plight of … The Underemployed!

Roughly 46 percent of Americans consider themselves underemployed, according to how you define the term. Here at PayScale, we define underemployment as having part-time work but wanting to work full-time, or holding a job that doesn't require or utilize your education, experience or training.

While unemployment is easy to measure—the number of people who are actively seeking work and have been unable to find it—measuring underemployment is more difficult.

People who can't find full time work in the field they studied often end up taking part time work, or working in jobs unrelated to their field of study. The danger of underemployment is that if you’re not using the skills you learned and want to develop, those skills will atrophy, leaving you less able to compete for the jobs you actually want. Additionally, underemployed workers begin to disengage from their jobs, resulting in sub-par performance, further damaging future job prospects.

In this report, we investigate the jobs where workers are most likely to identify as underemployed, why they fall into that category, and the educational choices they made that lead to underemployment. If you’re currently underemployed and want to find a job that better fits your professional goals and skill set, take advantage of PayScale's free salary survey, which can tell you exactly what compensation you can expect in your new job.