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Unemployed College Grads Are Turning to the Army

No more waiting out the tough economy in graduate school. The military's seeing a spike in the number of diploma-holding enlistees.

With the unemployment rate hovering near the 10 percent mark—and hiring freezes and layoffs still the norm—an increasing number of college grads are turning to the one employer who's always hiring, even in tough economic times: Uncle Sam. The number of bachelor's degree holders enlisting in a branch of the United States Armed Services is on the rise.

Over the past two years, the Army's seen the biggest spike in diploma-holding enlistees. In 2010, almost 6,000 college graduates signed up for duty, 2,000 more than in 2008 when the economy still seemed healthy. The Navy saw 1,425 college graduates enlist, up from 1,000 in 2008 and the Air Force bumped its college graduate enlistment up to 900 from 2008's total of 553.

We may be at war, but Ben Harris, a political science and communications double major from Ohio State University, isn't dwelling on the possibility of dying in combat. He graduated two years ago, and given the realities of the recession, he had to settle for a job at a "chicken-finger place" and shack up with his parents. Instead of heading off to graduate school to wait out the tough economy—and rack up more student loans—Harris told the Columbus Dispatch that he's considering joining the Army or the Air Force because, "I'll get more skills and more education."

The perks—VA benefits, access to military base stores, preference for government jobs, and a reduction in student loans (the Army will repay up to $65,000 of a soldier's qualifying student loans, the most of the armed services branches)—are undeniable. Plus, when you enlist with a bachelor's degree, you enter as an officer, which means you receive higher pay.

The only branch to not see a significant enrollment bump is the Marines. According to Maj. John Caldwell, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, "Young men and women join our ranks to become a United States Marine. They do not see the Marine Corps as a path to something else but rather as a destination unto itself."

photo (cc) via Flickr user Boston Public Library

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