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Paying for College: Using Employment Prospects to Drive Decisions

For college students who are approaching graduation, the employment picture may be looking slightly better than it has in the past couple of years, as the country slowly recovers from the Great Recession.

By: Jeff Mictabor
Category: Education:Financial-Aid
: Finance:Loans
Posted: Mar 17, 2011
Updated: Mar 17, 2011
Views: 176


For college students who are approaching graduation, the employment picture may be looking slightly better than it has in the past couple of years, as the country slowly recovers from the Great Recession. This recovery doesn’t mean, however, that job prospects are rosy; it just means that new graduates are being less particular about the job offers they accept.

For college graduates who may be facing tens of thousands of dollars in debt from student loans, the employment numbers still aren’t as good as one might hope.

Employment Trends for College Graduates in 2010

According to results from the 2010 Student Survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), less than one-fourth (24.4 percent) of the class of 2010 had a job waiting for them immediately following graduation, although this number is up from 19.7 percent in 2009. In 2007, more than half of graduating college seniors had secured a post-graduation position.

Only 38 percent of college students who applied for jobs in 2010 received at least one job offer, compared with 40 percent in 2009 and 66 percent in 2007.

Nearly 60 percent of the class of 2010 who received a job offer accepted it, while just 45 percent of the class of 2009 who received an employment offer did the same.

NACE cites average starting salary as one principal reason that a substantial 40 percent of the class of 2010 rejected job offers even in the current difficult job market. Among those students who accepted job offers, the median starting salary was $42,500. For rejected job offers, the median starting salary was $34,853.

Other factors cited by students in their decision to reject job offers included the location of the job (16 percent of students gave this reason) and the prestige of the employer (12 percent).

The NACE survey also notes a significant increase in the number of college graduates who returned to school immediately following their undergraduate studies. More than 27 percent of the class of 2010 said they would bypass entering the job market to attend graduate school, compared with just 20 percent of the class of 2007.

These findings from NACE track with research conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools that shows that both graduate school applications and graduate school enrollment are increasing, as job prospects remain elusive for recent college graduates.

Maximizing Job & Salary Offers After Graduation

The NACE report offers some points worth noting for current college students who are concerned about landing a job and how they’ll repay their student loans after graduation. A few clear distinctions emerged among the graduates in the class of 2010 who received job offers and those who didn’t.

A student’s academic major had a significant impact on both the likelihood of receiving a job offer right out of school and starting salary.

Among the five most likely majors to secure employment, more than 40 percent of students holding a degree in that major received at least one job offer: accounting (46.9 percent), business administration (45.4 percent), computer science (44.1 percent), engineering (41.0 percent), and social sciences (40.5 percent).

The top median starting salaries for bachelor’s degree recipients went to engineering majors ($59,666), followed by graduates with degrees in computer science ($55,000), mathematics ($50,351), accounting ($46,124), and business administration ($39,525).

Graduates who had completed internships were more likely to receive job offers (42 percent) than those who did not complete at least one internship while in school (30 percent). Internships also significantly increased a graduate’s median starting salary. Those graduates who had completed an internship while in college had a median starting salary of $41,580, while those without internships on their résumé had a median starting salary of $34,601.

Gender also still plays a significant role in starting salary. Employment offers for graduating females had a median starting salary of barely $36,450, while the median starting salary for male graduates exceeded $44,000. This gender-based starting-salary discrepancy was present among graduates in all majors except engineering and the general liberal arts and humanities.

For students who are just entering college or still have several credits to go before completing their degrees, careful selection of their academic major, as well as the completion of one or more internships ,may mean the difference between being employed and unemployed after graduation. Taking these steps may be especially important for female students, who may already be starting their careers at a salary disadvantage.

Judicious use of student loans can also decrease the repayment burden after college. Engineering degrees, which recorded the highest median starting salary among both genders, can often take five years, rather than the traditional four years, to complete. Students who want to pursue a career in engineering should be prepared to take on additional college tuition and living expenses, which may include additional school loan debt.

A four-year degree in business administration had good employment prospects for the class of 2010, but this outlook was paired with a comparatively low starting salary. Accounting majors, on the other hand, had both higher employment rates and higher median starting salaries.

For current students interested in business administration, pursuing a minor in accounting may improve their employability after graduation and may also provide a boost in starting salary that can help minimize the financial burden of student loan debt.

Similarly, engineering students may want to supplement their engineering degree with a minor in computer science or math to improve both employment and salary prospects.



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