(U-WIRE) OMAHA, Neb. -Twenty years ago a high school degree was enough. Ten years ago a college education did the trick. Today a college education is status quo and not enough to be competitive in the job market, said Albert Chen, executive director of Kaplan graduate programs.
But without more advanced degrees, college students are still faring better than their less educated counterparts. The unemployment rate among college graduates in August 2002 was 2.7 percent, far below the national rate of 5.7 percent, according to figures published by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The economic downturn has caused a shortage of jobs and has forced college graduates to pursue additional degrees in order to stay competitive, Chen said. Most noticeable is the rise in enrollment for the graduate management admissions test for business school, and the law school admissions test, which is up more than 20 percent from last year.
A law degree goes hand-in-hand with a business degree, Chen said, which may account for the increase. In Boston, Chicago, Washington and Miami, LSAT seats are already full for the October and December tests. Denise Archer, admissions coordinator at University of Nebraska College of Law, has seen an increase in law school applications. "One thing to note is that the increase in applicants does not necessarily mean that there will be more attorneys graduating," she said.
NU Law School admits 120 students a year, no matter how many applications are received, which means higher selectivity. Students with such an investment in their education hope to be able to find jobs at graduation.
Some career fields are more fruitful than others. The pharmaceutical field is where more jobs exist than qualified applicants, said to Jerry Beisner, chief executive officer of Wilkinson Pharmacy in southwest Missouri. Beisner was present at a career fair at Creighton recently, attempting to recruit Creighton pharmacy students. He points to an increase in pharmacies as the reason for the pharmacist shortage.
"If you graduate from pharmacy school and you need a job, the only thing you have to decide is where you want to practice," he said. "Positions are open wherever you want to go, and students are getting full-scale wages right off the bat."
In Missouri, starting annual salaries for pharmacists in 2001 averaged $76,000. The dental profession is also healthy said William Kelsey, associate dean for academic affairs at Creighton’s dental school. "One hundred percent of our grads had a job or went to specialty school or residency within the first year," he said.
Applications for dental school are holding steady, he said, with no real increase or decrease in the last few years. Peter Cales, Arts & Sciences senior, will graduate next year with a degree in English. He is in the preliminary stages of researching graduate schools, doubting he will be able to find a job with his four-year degree. "The bad economy is one of many reasons for me to just stay in school," he said.
Neither law nor business school are in his plans, but he feels that any graduate school will give him an edge in the job market. Chen said that a graduate degree is key, and added that the trend will not reverse itself. "It is a cycle that is going to result in needing more and more education to be competitive," he said.
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