Job offers and salaries on the rise for class of 2011

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What is the purpose of college – to get an education in a field you love or to prepare yourself for a career? For some students, the two objectives are not mutually exclusive, but for many they are. A common question from graduates is, “What can I do with a liberal arts degree?” And eventually they realize they can do just about anything, but you have to know how to sell your skills to employers. The path of a philosophy major, for example, is often less defined than that of an IT or business student.

A recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reveals that this year’s graduates are looking at rosier pay offers than last year’s graduates. The average salary offer for the class of 2011 is $50,034, a 3.5 percent increase over last year. Perhaps even more exciting for new job seekers is the uptick in hiring that graduates can expect. Compared with 2010, 13.5 percent more employers will hire new graduates this year. After years of sluggish college hiring, news touting higher salaries and more robust offers should give seniors more to look forward to. (You should still take this last semester of study seriously. You don’t want a bad case of senioritis to wreck your GPA.)

Of the seven jobs expected to garner the most offers this year, four will have an initial offer higher than the average graduate’s.

You’ll also notice that these jobs typically come from degrees that have a clear path: accounting, finance and business. That’s not to say studying one of these fields will guarantee you a job offer or a high salary upon graduation, but they seem to be in demand at the moment.

Who’s hiring?

Another interesting find in the survey is who will be doing the hiring.

Overall:

  • 67.5 percent of offers will come from services  employers.
  • 23.9 percent of offers will come from manufacturing employers.
  • 8.6 percent of offers will come from government or nonprofit employers.

Services employers include just about any organization that doesn’t fall under nonprofit, government or manufacturing. Advertising, banking, engineering, insurance, real estate, health care and many other fields fit within the services category.

On a related note, Steve Blank, a retired engineering lecturer, says he is concerned that today’s students are not adequately prepared for the job market. Why? Because their degrees are too narrow. What’s interesting is that the NACE survey shows the most offers and highest salaries going to students with concentrations that aren’t interdisciplinary. For example, an accounting concentration probably doesn’t require the same diverse courses that an English or education degree does. Yet, graduates with the latter degrees aren’t receiving the high-paying offers of the former.

Blank does raise a good point if you consider the recent economic crisis, however. If you were so focused on investment and didn’t study other topics or develop other transferable skills, you could have found yourself in a very unpleasant job market two years ago. Does that justify a less vertical (or “silo” style) education, as Blank suggests?

Whatever you decide to study, at least the hiring outlook is improving for graduates. Entering the “real world” is scary enough without the fear of not finding a job.

Do you think students should study a degree with a clear career path versus one with softer skills? Or do you think the economy is so unpredictable that you should focus on studying what you want and not what might land you a job? Let us know.

8 Comments
  1. I think one should focus on studying what one wants and not what might land a job.

    If you have the passion for a field of work, become an expert in it and the jobs will follow you. You don’t have to follow the jobs.

    • Good Idea! That way you can help the economy by going back to college when you find out that Marine Biology Degree or Psychology won’t get you a job. LOL!

      • Those are very good salaries and now they should do an article about graduates with a degree in a field that will either land them a job that pays no better than a high school graduate, or cannot find a job in their field because it’s either over-saturated or becoming obsolute because computers or monkeys can do the same job for less.

  2. The salaries presented in this article reflex gross pay, not net. Pay raises have not increased by any real measure when compared to actual purchasing power. This may seem adequate to someone that works McDonalds during college but there are other elements that affect start and future earnings. 65 k could be seen as good income if one has no college loans to payoff and can budget their life on 30% less than the mental benchmark of whatever that published salary is. As employer of thousands over the last 15 years, I have seen this behavior fall onto the norm. It does not matter what level of education or training, people seem to gravitate toward various levels of permanent comfort (as if this free flowing revenue has no end in sight).

  3. I have found over my career that I came into companies doing 1 job and ended up working 3 (for instance: started as sales…ended up doing…sales, operations, & billing. Mostly in small companies this happens. You have to be flexible and work hard & fast to help keep the business afloat. 1 bad employee can cost the company so it’s required that you be a fast learner & catch on quickly or have exact experience from a competitor. Also, it gets hard to take a weeks vacation as you are depended on so much so I have learned to get really good back up (other people that want extra money, but don’t necessarily want a f/t job) when going out of town.  

  4. What about young people with degrees in the last three years, who, have suffered due to the economy.  Do they come first before recent graduates, or, has their time come and gone?   Just a question.
    I find that special ed teachers with the proper credentials, in the past three years have been overlooked and not employed or are under employed. 

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