Job opportunities on the rise: Five things new college grads should know

Category : CAREER

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Thanks to improved job opportunities, this year’s crop of college graduates won’t have to hit the pavement quite as hard as their counterparts did in the past few years. Their spring job outlook is the best it’s been since 2007, with employers planning to hire 10 to 20 percent more new graduates this year than they did last year, according to two recent surveys. Here’s a breakdown of hiring and salary prospects for various industries, college majors, and skill sets:

1. Job prospects are good – unless you were hoping to work for the government

The best bets for college graduates this spring include oil and gas extraction; pharmaceutical manufacturing; computer and electronics manufacturing; and finance, insurance, and real estate. More than half the employers surveyed in these groups expect healthy hiring increases, and these companies plan to add an average of more than 100 new college grads, according to a survey of members of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Engineering and accounting look good as well, partly because a few companies are planning large hiring increases.

2. Your major isn’t necessarily a major issue

More companies are actively seeking engineering, business, and physical science majors than humanities and education majors.

But before you liberal arts devotees despair, consider this: 36 percent of employers are considering hiring students of any major – that’s a record level in Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends survey conducted each fall.

Some of the “hot majors” identified by that survey are e-commerce, entrepreneurism, mathematics, and public relations.

3. Got these skills?

The skills and qualities ranked as most important by employers in the NACE survey: Verbal communication, decisionmaking and problem-solving, planning and prioritizing, processing information, and analyzing quantitative data.

Haven’t gotten around to mastering the arts of tweeting and blogging? Don’t worry too much yet. Only 7 percent of employers surveyed by Michigan State list social-media literacy as a necessary skill for entry level hiring, and 13 percent say it’s a preferred skill.

4. Be ready to compete

Although hiring numbers are on the rise, a lot of recent college graduates and more-experienced workers are still hungry for jobs out there.

Each job posting receives an average of 21 applications, among the employers surveyed by NACE.

That’s competitive, but last year’s graduating class had it much worse, at 40 applicants per job posting.

5. Don’t say “Show me the money!”

Salaries will be stagnant for most new hires, with 80 percent of employers in Michigan State’s survey saying they will not increase salaries. That survey projects an average starting salary for hires with bachelor’s degrees to be about $37,000.

Those with computer science and engineering degrees will fare better, starting off with salaries in the high 40s to mid-50s. They’re also the only ones with any chance of hearing the words “signing bonus.” Only 1 percent of employers expect to offer those, primarily to graduates with advanced degrees, the Michigan State survey reports.