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Some Industries Still Need, Will Pay ’08 Grads Looking for First Jobs

By Theresa Minton-Eversole  9/16/2008
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Despite the labor market contraction and overall unease with current economic conditions, the college Class of 2008 is ending its year of the job search on a positive note, according to salary survey data released Sept. 12, 2008, by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

NACE's quarterly salary survey tracks data supplied by two- and four-year colleges for:

  • Nearly 80 disciplines at the bachelor’s degree level.
  • More than 40 fields at the master's level.
  • More than 20 at the doctoral level.

In addition, it includes employer-reported data for:

  • Salary figures by field of study, job function, employer type, and degree level.
  • Average offers, plus salary ranges.

Survey responses revealed that 94 percent of disciplines had increases to average starting salary offers. The average starting salary offer to all college graduates in the fall 2008 salary survey is up 7.6 percent to $49,224.

“One force driving the overall increase in the average salary offer to all college graduates is the strong demand for and low supply of technical graduates,” said NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes in a statement about the survey results.

Where the Money Is

For example, the average salary offer made to 2008 computer and information sciences graduates is up from $51,992 to $58,677—a healthy 12.9 percent increase. Offers made by computer and electronics products manufacturers might have contributed to the large increase; these employers made a fair number of salary offers that exceeded $70,000.

Falling in line with computer and information sciences graduates are highly sought-after engineering graduates. The average salary offer to these graduates rose 6.6 percent, from $53,710 to $57,250. The average salary offer to chemical engineering graduates grew by 7.7 percent to $63,773. The news was also good for computer engineering graduates, whose average salary offer topped out at $60,280—a 7.8 percent increase.

But graduates in the technical disciplines weren’t alone in commanding higher starting salaries.

As a group, business disciplines posted increases across the board, and the overall average salary offer to these majors was up 5.7 percent over the 2007 average of $44,287 to $46,800. Business administration/management majors saw a solid increase of 6.7 percent to their average salary offer, raising it from $43,256 to $46,171. Economics majors saw a 6.9 percent increase to their average salary offer, which now stands at $51,062. Meanwhile, the average salary offer to accounting majors peaked at $48,020—an increase of 3.7 percent.

Similarly, graduates in the liberal arts disciplines fared well. As a group, liberal arts grads realized a 12.2 percent increase in their average offer, raising it from $32,717 to $36,715. Within specific disciplines, English majors posted an 11.1 percent increase, raising their average offer to $35,453. Visual and performing arts graduates also saw a double-digit increase to their average salary offer, which rose 16.2 percent to $35,073.

Top Industries for Entry-Level Employment

Graduates looking for their first foray into the world of work will find that many employers nationwide are looking to fill entry-level positions. More employers are realizing the value of providing entry-level training and development programs in an effort to promote and groom from within.

MonsterTRAK, a division of global online careers property Monster and a leading online resource that connects college students and recent graduates with employers looking for qualified entry-level and internship candidates, released on Sept. 15, 2008, data for the top five industries for entry-level workers based on a review of job openings posted on its site over the past year.

Though business and finance postings continue to dominate the majority of entry-level openings, the rise in medical and educational opportunities suggest a shift in the type of jobs available to entry-level candidates.

The top job categories and occupations cited were:

1) Sales and Business Development: Accounting for almost a quarter of all postings for entry-level workers, sales and business development includes jobs in account management, real estate, advertising and field sales.

2) Accounting and Finance: Despite a downturn in the mortgage and loan sectors, this category accounts for almost 15 percent of postings, with employers seeking entry-level candidates for accounting, financial analysis, consulting and administrative positions.

3) Training and Instruction: Education-related opportunities, including special education and junior high school teachers, college administrators, counselors and adult education specialists, increased more than 90 percent year-over-year.

4) Information Technology and Software Development: The most popular jobs in this industry include web and software design, consulting, online security systems, computer maintenance and help desk support.

5) Medical and Health: This category outpaced all others with growth of 200 percent year-over-year. Nurses, dental practitioners, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists and general practice physicians are the most highly sought.

“As the medical and educational sectors continue to add jobs, as well as expand online recruitment efforts, we expect their need for qualified applicants to outpace other white-collar industries that previously dominated year-over-year growth, such as the slowing financial and business sectors,” said Mark Charnock, MonsterTRAK vice president and general manager, in a statement. “Because the majority of industries, regardless of the sector, will continue to face a shortage of talent generationally, many employers are looking to attract entry-level candidates by offering long-term growth potential and other perks. This remains good news for students who are undecided about a degree path, as well as recent graduates and young professionals still looking for their first opportunity.”

Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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