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Majors matter as graduates seek jobs.

As this year's class enters the strongest job market for graduates since 2008, students with backgrounds in computer science, engineering and accounting are in high demand, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

While the group's latest survey shows a 10.2 percent increase in hiring plans from 2011, the improvement isn't benefiting all majors the same way, as in pre-recession years, said Edwin Koc, who heads research at Bethlehem, Pa.-based NACE.


This year’s graduates in computer science, engineering and
accounting are in high demand in the strongest job market
for graduates since 2008, says the National  Association of
Colleges and Employers. NACE shows a 10.2 percent increase
in hiring over 2011.
-Michael Okoniewsk/Bloomberg News

The pattern mirrors a 2011 survey of students' job offers, said Koc: Graduates "with certain skill sets are doing quite well," while things are tougher for others, such as liberal arts, humanities and education majors.

NACE, a source of information about the employment of college graduates, estimates 1.7 million students will get their bachelor degree this year.

At Virginia Tech's career services office, it is mainly students with technical degrees who are benefiting from a 25 percent increase in job postings this year and employers coming earlier to recruit, said Jim Henderson. These students are receiving more offers than two or three years ago and are sought after by companies, he said.

"For the nontechnical jobs, it's much more challenging," said Henderson, associate director for employer relations at the Blacksburg school. Graduates in those majors really have to "network and have a job-search strategy on how they're going to find and connect with that employer."

Thirty-seven percent of students who graduated between 2006 and 2011 wished they had been more careful when choosing their major, according to a report this month by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

Only 39 percent said they thought about job opportunities when picking a field of study. Half of the 444 students in the survey were employed full time.

A report on recruiting trends by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University in East Lansing shows employers are seeking engineering, computer science, selected science, accounting and finance majors. About a third of them are committed to recruiting from all majors.

Employers expect that students will have done at least one internship, maybe two, said Carl Martellino, the executive director at the University of Southern California's career center in Los Angeles, who says he has seen increased hiring directly out of such programs. "Internships are really now the new interviews."

Students also are showing more interest in small companies and startups than in the past, said Katharine Brooks, director of Liberal Arts Careers Services at the University of Texas at Austin. She has started teaching a class, "The Liberal Arts Entrepreneur," in which students craft a business plan.

"With the economy slowly coming back, it might not be as easy as it used to be," said Anne Rose, an accounting student Anne Rose at Villanova University's School of Business in Pennsylvania.

"But if you're proactive about it and you've put time into your studies, I think that you can find employment opportunities."

Excerpts from: The Portland Press Herald | Most wanted: Students with technical degrees


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