Diploma doesn't always spell job-

Friday, July 20, 2007

By Ilene Davis

Business Today

Four years of study and 120 or more credit hours yields a degree, the golden ticket to the future with a promise of good pay and a quality life. But will it be the answer to that proverbial knock on the door by opportunity?

Administrators suggest students begin looking for jobs at least a year before they graduate. Words such as "saturated" and "over-flowing" drift about the classrooms, describing the potential state of the job market. Aspiring graduates tend to get a tad nervous that their future isn't as solid as they once thought.

"Truthfully, availability varies from field to field," said Dr. Leon Book, director of Southeast Missouri State University's First-Year Experience program. For example, he remembered several years ago chemical engineering graduates at Rolla were struggling to get jobs, but now it seems they're all finding employment. "Even the C- students," he said.

Nolan Brunnworth is the St. Louis Career Specialist in Chesterfield, Mo., part of an outreach program the university implemented in 2005. He works with Southeast alumni and graduating seniors to locate internships and job opportunities in the St. Louis area.

There are some growing professions where students find it easier to get a job within their field, he said. It seems to come down to the demands of the job market.

"Certain areas, even in Missouri, are experiencing market saturation. Many liberal arts majors and even teaching majors, are having to beat out more competition," he said. As a result, the employers of those concentrations are going to be more choosy, he said.

The market is different now from eight to 10 years ago, Brunnworth said. Mass Communication majors are having an especially tough time finding employment, he noted, with a major challenging being of the high number of graduates trying to find jobs at once. There is an elevated level of competition.

Some of the less popular majors tend to have less difficultly finding a employment, he said.

For one thing, the United States is still lagging in the production of science and mathematics degrees, Brunnworth said. "That is a cause for concern. Emerging economies are producing many more degrees in science and math, there isn't as much competition."

The greater demand for such degrees means it won't be as difficult to get hired.

While technical and scientific majors may produce quicker job placements, it appears most students are taking interest in other fields of study. As a result, most students do face some challenges.

It helps when students have a concrete grasp on their field of study since they are trying to beat out their competition. A solid advertising or marketing major is going to need to know Adobe Photoshop inside and out, Brunnworth said.

Typically, a single internship is required to graduate, though growing competition prompts students to complete two, sometimes three internships. The more pre-graduation work experience, the higher a student's chance of employment.

Brunnworth also says he works with Southeast graduates ranging from St. Louis natives to students raised in the bootheel. After assessing the Cape Girardeau area, many migrate to a larger metropolitan hub, relocating for job prospects.

Book agrees saying, "Many of our graduates head for metro St. Louis for the opportunities that area affords. Some data indicates that about 40 percent of our student body comes from the metro area, and approximately 50 percent of our graduates go to St. Louis to work."

Bottom line, he says, they go where the opportunity is, as best as their individual situations will allow.

Being extremely well-versed in one's field increases the chance of job placement, however a lot depends on how the job search is carried out. The ideal job hunt should be a diversified search. Brunnworth tells the students he works with not to over rely on certain means, for example, the internet sites that allow students to post resumes online and act like a type of bulletin board. There can be a considerable amount of poor quality information on these sites, including false job postings.

Typically, graduates have more success visiting niche oriented sites, such those operated by the Human Resource Management Association or the American Advertising Federation. These sites post specific job opportunities within the field and are more likely to review resumes than some of the larger job search sites.

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