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Posted on May 09 2011

New grads enter job market with degrees of uncertainty

By  Editor
Updated April 03 2023


Kathryn Ottinger, a senior business administration major and manager of one of two Sweet Temptations coffee shops on the CSU campus, will graduate this month and hopes to eventually open her own coffee shop. On the left, is Karli Beedle, a junior graphics design major. / V. Richard Haro/The Coloradoan

In a matter of days, Brian Ruhde will graduate from CSU with no idea what he is going to do next.

The 25-year-old English major said his prospects of finding a job in his field are not good. Ideally, Ruhde would like to find a position writing for a publication, but he knows that the literary world is difficult to break into.

"I'm pretty lost as to what to even look for in my industry," said Ruhde, who may try to find seasonal work doing landscaping. He also has a minor in Spanish that may help him land a job

For Ruhde and the multitude of other college seniors getting ready to graduate this month, the employment picture may be looking up.

Recent reports indicate employers are more apt to hire this year compared to last year, and salaries are on the rise.

You're Hired

In a matter of days, thousands of graduates will receive their degrees. For most, the real work still lies ahead.

While finding a job in the current market is still difficult, employers say they will hire 19 percent more new college graduates this year than they did last year, according to a new survey by the National Association of Colleges andEmployers, or NACE.

In September, employers projected hiring 13.5 percent more new graduates from the Class of 2011 than they hired from the Class of 2010. That number increased to 19.3 percent with this month's survey. Founded in 1956, NACE monitors the hiring outlook and demand for new college graduates throughout the year through a variety of surveys and polls.

"This is the first time since 2007 that we've seen a double-digit increase in spring hiring projections. That's a good indication that the job market for new college graduates is gaining momentum," said Marily300n Mackes, NACE executive director in a prepared statement.

At the same time the survey revealed hiring increases are expected across regions and most industries. Oil and gas extraction companies, chemical manufacturers, computer and electronics manufacturers, finance, insurance and real estate employers reported the best industries for jobs.

"The survey also found that employers are receiving fewer applications per job opening as current graduates now have more opportunities to choose from," Mackes said. Some of those jobs will no doubt come out of existing internships where students have formed invaluable bonds that lead to full-time positions.

According to NACE, employers responding to its 2011 Internship & Co-op Survey reported that an average 39.1 percent of their entry-level hires from the Class of 2010 came from their own internship programs. In addition, the responding organizations reported converting, on average, nearly 58 percent of their interns into full-time hires.

"That's the highest conversion rate we've seen since we started tracking this on an annual basis in 2001," Mackes said. In 2010, 86.5 percent of interns offered a full-time job accepted it, up from 83.9 percent in 2009.

Getting Paid

While employers appear to be more apt to hire this year, NACE's spring 2011 Salary Survey, also released this month, shows that the average salary of an employee right out of school is on the rise, particularly for engineers.

The average salary for 2011 graduates is $50,462, up 5.9 percent from the overall average of $47,673 for 2010 graduates, according to NACE.

The quarterly report shows starting salary offers to graduates with bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees by curriculum, type of employer, and job function.

Topping this year's list of top-paid majors is chemical engineering, with an average salary starting of about $66,886. Engineering majors account for seven of the top 10 spots on the list, with computer science being the only non-engineering major to crack the top five.

"That four of the top five top-paid majors are engineering and all received average starting salary offers in excess of $60,000 strongly indicates the continued high demand for these graduates," Mackes said. "Furthermore, the entire top-10 list underscores the interest employers have in hiring technical majors."

The Expectations

Fort Collins' college graduates are somewhat optimistic about their futures, both in terms of jobs and salary.

While some, like Ruhde, are at a loss for where to go from here, others such as 23-year-old Kathryn Ottinger are taking control of their financial futures.

Ottinger is graduating with a degree in business management from Colorado State University with a plan and the passion to follow her vision. That passion is coffee, and Ottinger will spend this summer developing a business plan to launch her own coffee shop in Denver.

"I'm going in hesitantly, that's why I'm working on a business plan to find my niche," said Ottinger, who initially started looking for jobs before opting to become her own boss.

Ottinger said the current job market and economy played a large role in her decision to start a coffee shop. Ottinger, who manages the campus coffee shop Sweet Temptations and has worked at Everyday Joe's, said she realized that coffee is what she is really passionate about, and would rather risk starting her own shop than work in an office.

Ottinger said she has no idea what she will make in terms of salary but recognizes it will take time to turn a profit.

Husain Alkhulaif, 23, knows exactly what he will be paid.

The Saudi Arabia native wants to build on his computer science degree by going to grad school, then return home to make $48,000 a year, which is about $20,000 less than what computer science majors make in the United States.

Regardless, Alkhulaif said he is optimistic about his ability to land a job when he returns home.

Ted Dreiling, 38, a computer information systems major at Front Range is graduating this year without a job offer but is confident he will land a position paying $35,00 to $45,000 to start.

"I'm pretty confident with the training they have given me and the job market," Dreiling said.

Some graduates will walk away from school with a job in hand, such as Alison Pagel, a 21-year-old CSU senior who is graduating with a degree in animal science.

Pagel has a position at the CSU veterinarian hospital working in the large-animal clinic. Pagel said she plans to put in a couple years at the clinic before moving on to either vet school or some other line of work with animals.

In terms of salary, Pagel said she is looking to get by on between $20,000 and $30,000.

"I'm definitely optimistic. I know it won't be right away because the economy is not so hot, but I'm willing to work up," she said.

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