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FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 30, 2011

Job-hunting remains a challenge, even for new college graduates

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College graduation season generally is a sunny time, but lingering economic clouds darken the mood for some graduates who're still emailing resumes. Employment rates for new college graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years, The New York Times reported last week. Among members of the Class of 2010, just 56 percent had held at least one job by this spring. (Some went to graduate school.) Young graduates who majored in teaching, engineering, math, computer science and health are most likely to find a job requiring a college degree, while humanities majors have the toughest search.

Starting salaries also are lower on average than before a global economic crisis hit in late 2008, Rutgers University researchers found. Their May 25 report, titled "Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy," says the median starting salary for four-year college graduates in 2009 and 2010 was $27,000 -- down from $30,000 for those who entered the work force in 2006-08. That news, along with The Times' report that only half of the jobs landed by these new graduates even require a college degree, makes some students and check-writing parents wonder about the value of investing at least four years of time and tuition.

Whether to obtain higher education isn't the question, according to an employment researcher. What to study is vital, however. "It's important that you go to college and get a [bachelor's degree], but it's almost three to four times more important what you take," says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. "The majors that are most popular are not the ones that make the most money."

Graduate student says: "I knew there weren't going to be many job prospects for me until I got my Ph.D." -- Travis Patterson, 23-year-old psychology major from California

Blogger says: "Jobs that require college degrees generally pay better than jobs that don't. This is true for graduates of every major." -- Catherine Rampell, New York Times writer posting at its Economix blog

Career job-seeker says: "I have friends with the same degree as me, from a worse school, but because of who they knew or when they happened to graduate, they're in much better jobs. It's more about luck than anything else." -- Kyle Bishop, University of Pittsburgh graduate (2009) looking for job in publishing

Front Page Talking Points is written by Felix Grabowski and Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2016
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