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Why We Believed That Story About McDonald's Requiring Cashiers to Have a College Degree

Does a "weekly paycheck with a side order of food, folks, and fun," require four years on campus?

Does a "weekly paycheck with a side order of food, folks, and fun," require a college degree? That certainly seemed to be the case last week after news spread across the internet that independent job search site had posted a listing for a cashier position at a McDonald's in Winchendon, Massachusetts which required a bachelor's degree and two years of experience.

The U.K.-based Daily Mail called the job listing "a frightening example of how competitive the job market is for young people right now." However, Joe Ruscito, the franchise's owner said in a statement that "We do not require a bachelor’s degree for employment," and the job search site also confirmed that it was an error on their part.

So why was it so easy to believe that a McDonald's would actually require a bachelor's degree for a cashier's postion? Well, it is pretty tough out there for job hunters. The nonpartisan millennial advocacy organization Generation Opportunity crunched the Bureau of Labor Statistics March data and found that for 18 to 29-year-olds, the unemployment rate is 11.7 percent, significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent.

And, although the 3.8 percent unemployment rate for college graduates is lower than the 7.7 percent unemployment for folks with just a high school diploma, a recent report from the Center for College Affordability found that "48 percent of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests requires less than a four-year college education." A full 11 percent, "of employed college graduates are in occupations requiring more than a high-school diploma but less than a bachelor's, and 37 percent are in occupations requiring no more than a high-school diploma."

There's also no denying that employers have some inflated education and experience expectations. The report found that the number of so-called "overeducated workers" is on the rise. Back in 1970, for example, "fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs." Last fall a satirical Tumblr, MLA Jobs, nailed the situation in academia with entries like, "UCLA is hiring an assistant professor in Latina culture and literature who will also be a part of our interdisciplinary seminar on Kant. Secondary specialization must include colonial American literature, 1990s cyberpunk, graphic novels, and the history of the Jew's harp in Thailand." Ouch.

As one friend whose extended job hunting search has been pretty frustrating recently told me, nowadays employers "want you to have a master's degree, 10 years experience, and they only want to pay you $35K." She's skeptical that the McDonald's job posting was actually an error. "That was just McDonald's testing out requiring college degrees," she said. "They wanted to see how it would go over." Given the job search challenges so many Americans are having, she's probably not the only one feeling so cynical.

Image via (cc) Flickr user dave_mcmt

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