Survey examines future job market

Adam Milasincic

Soon-to-be graduates find corporate America an unpredictable place

New graduates sizing up the job market will find three themes, a new study shows: Working with money means making money, science degrees still pay and the demand for some jobs never goes dry.

Plenty of offers will flow to budding accountants, salespeople, engineers and teachers, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Spring 2006 Salary Survey.

“Nearly nine out of 10 employers reported an increase in competition for new college hires,” said NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes in a press release. “In fact, more than 20 percent told us that they have raised or plan to raise their starting salaries to entice potential employees.”

NACE based the job rankings and salary rankings on reports from college career centers. The data suggests graduates with specialized degrees are in better positions for job offers and lucrative salaries, but two job categories – management trainee and sales – are tailored to liberal arts students.

Sales, Management

Outside the realm of professional licensure, opportunities abound for graduates who are energetic and adept at communicating. Sales and marketing are the top growth fields for entry-level positions in northeast Ohio, said Ami Hollis, assistant director of Career Services.

“They’re not looking for specific business degrees,” Hollis said. They’re again looking for skill sets.” The liberal arts majors do great in sales positions. Those opportunities can be very lucrative if you’re good at it.”

The overall No. 2 job for graduates is manager-trainee, a broad description that covers entry-level positions in industries from retail to finance, according to the study.

“Employers always tell me if they can find someone with the skills that they’re looking for – the communications skills, the leadership potential – they would be willing to train them in the position,” Hollis said. “The manager-trainee program offers a great opportunity to develop some of that skill and teach someone about the specific business or job they would be doing.”

Another deep well of jobs has developed as large corporations outsource day-to-day operations to private consultants and contractors. Companies have particularly handed off positions in information technology and human resources management, Hollis said.

Accounting

Number crunchers are No. 1 this year. Jobs in accounting are so plentiful that the field’s two branches, public and private, show up separately in the Top 10.

To pursue opportunities with private companies, graduates need a four-year accounting degree. Corporations and even small businesses hire staff accountants to assist with bookkeeping and budget preparation.

To work for a public accounting firm, which involves performing external audits for firms like regional giant Ernst & Young, applicants must have completed five years of education and passed the Certified Public Accounting exam.

“I’m fond of saying about accounting that in good times when the job market is strong, accounting is a wonderful place to be,” said Richard Brown, the chairman of accounting department in the College of Business Administration. “In bad times, when there aren’t a lot of jobs around, accounting is a good place to be.”

Kent State accounting students can be deluged with job offers nearly two years before graduation, Brown said. Students who pay for some of their own college costs and participate in student organizations especially impress recruiters.

“I think money and starting salaries and job prospects are very important,” Brown said. “If you don’t like it, and you’re not good at it, you shouldn’t do it no matter what the job market is. The nice thing is, you have the ability to give something back. Conversely, if you mess it up, you can do a lot of damage, like we’ve seen with Enron.”

Engineering

Engineers claimed three top spots, with distinctions among the categories primarily arising from the different names that participating colleges assign to academic departments, said Andrea Koncz, a NACE information manager.

Whether the graduates seek to build bridges, city blocks or chemical reactions, they will find a wide-open job market. Entry into most engineering professions is heavily restricted, however, and requires at least a master’s degree. Students who take those extra steps are in high demand.

“I get an awful lot of calls this time of year wanting our best graduates, so to speak, but by that time, most of students are usually employed,” said Jim Dalton, a professor in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. “It’s a very well-respected program nationally. (Our students) are heavily recruited really all over the United States.”

Teaching

Although teaching requires certification and a specialized degree, the profession can offer opportunities in big cities and small towns.

Ohio graduates can easily transfer to other states after obtaining certification because Ohio’s program is recognized as particularly rigorous, said Bette Brooks, the Director of Partnership Initiatives for the College and Graduate School of Education. Elementary and secondary school job prospects are booming locally as well.

“There are more openings, and they are more varied,” Brooks said. “We’re finally beginning to see a number of openings in top-notch school districts, and we’re thrilled to death. I’m proud to say that many of our students are on the top of those (hiring) lists.”

The job market for teachers is typically wide open because there is a never-ending flow of young people into schools, Brooks said. Spikes in the number of openings occur when current teachers retire en masse due to changes in state pension and licensure policies.

Contact Alumni affairs reporter Adam Milasincic at [email protected]