You always knew it was a good idea to stay in school, but recent problems with the economy are making it just a bit more important. Due to post-September hiring freezes, layoffs and a general decrease in employment of new college graduates, students are changing their career strategies before they even start the job hunt. The most common plan of attack seems to be choosing the right major, according to professional career advisers.
But what are those majors, and how exactly will they help students avoid the landmines of unemployment?
Annette Rothman, a recent graduate of New York University’s Wagner School of Public Policy, was recruited by a specialized government agency upon completing the school’s master’s program. With an undergraduate major in political science, Rothman originally thought she would earn a Ph.D. and become a college professor.
Rothman said that she has always known that her major is highly competitive and that students don’t always get what they want. “Traditionally, the job market for political science majors leads to restaurant work, bartending, or Wal-Mart,” said Rothman.
So after graduating from the University of Nebraska, she headed for the NYU program, hoping to stave off a few years of unemployment and to make herself more marketable for high-paying jobs.
In September, Rothman, 24, will begin work in Washington D.C. instead of attending a Ph.D. program in Boston as she had originally planned.
“In the back of my mind I always knew that a political science major [might] lead to an exciting job, like intelligence work,” she said. “[But] they do look for all types of majors: math, sciences, languages.”
Like Rothman, more and more college graduates are opting to further their education by earning advanced degrees in political, medical, legal and technological fields. Tracey Martin, a career counselor at Maryland’s Goucher College, says that graduate school has become an attractive alternative for students who feel that their undergraduate major doesn’t meet the needs of the current competitive job market.
“Any time the job market takes a turn for the worse, you see more students entering graduate programs,” she said.
Martin said that even though Goucher is a small liberal arts school, students are still aware of the more practical majors that will be of greater use to them in four years. “Accounting, economics and marketing are still some of the best majors in terms of sought-after job candidates,” she said.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employment for graduates in 2002 is down 36.5 percent from 2001. While employment rates in service, non-profit and manufacturing industries are an average of 35 percent lower than last year, government agencies are the exception, seeking to employ 16.2 percent more recent graduates than in 2001.
Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of Minneapolis-based CollegeRecruiter.com, said he has seen an increase in availability of jobs relating to finance and communication technology, and that students with majors in those fields tend to fill positions more rapidly now than in previous years.
But Rothberg stresses that while demand for fine arts majors is not as high as other specialties, CollegeRecruiter.com has had success finding jobs for students with artistic interests.
“There’s a pretty good connection between the needs of employers and students,” he said. “For people who are theatre majors who want a career in film, TV, we do have an employer who has been using our site very successfully for a couple of years now.”
CollegeRecruiter.com, as well as job search sites such as hotjobs.com and monster.com, offers a multitude of resources besides job placement which Rothberg says are valuable no matter what a candidate’s major or interests.
“Although we may not have positions available that match the interest of every candidate, chances are we do have career related content that will be of use to them” said Rothberg. “There are 700 pages of career related material [such as résumé tips and interview coaching].”
“Candidates just need to be resourceful and open-minded. If recruiters want them, they’ll find them.”
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