Graduates Competing for Fewer Jobs after College

May 24, 2010 — University of Virginia graduates are headed to the same types of jobs to which they were headed in 2008, prior to the "Great Recession," but in smaller numbers.
Graduates are taking positions in banking, both retail and investment; consulting; government; education; health care; information technology; manufacturing; consumer products, and other sales and service jobs, said James McBride, executive director of U.Va.'s office of career services.

He said opportunities were fewer than in 2007, but "slightly better" than in 2008 and 2009. On-Grounds interviewing last fall was down 20 percent from the previous fall, as were the number of employers attending career fairs.

"The employers who did attend seemed confident, or at least optimistic that they would have full-time and internship positions available – just in fewer numbers," McBride said.

Job seekers need to be creative, McBride said, suggesting they network with U.Va. alumni in their intended fields, capitalize on "professional networking" through social and business networking sites, and "work and volunteer," a strategy in which a graduate takes a nights-and-weekends job to earn money while volunteering during the day in activities that enhance their career-related skills.

"Community service agencies often need volunteers who have communications, marketing, computer, event planning or research skills," McBride said. "This also leaves weekdays open for full-time job interviews, which will be helpful, especially as the economy begins to improve."
About 80 percent of graduates from the McIntire School of Commerce have lined up a job, an internship or a berth in graduate school, according to C. Thomas Fitch, assistant dean of commerce career services.

"We are seeing many of our students accepting full-time positions from their summer offers in accounting, investment banking, consulting – many of the popular industries that we typically see our students pursue," Finch said. "We've been receiving a number of calls recently from employers who are considering summer hires in hopes of increasing full-time offers for next year."

Graduates of the School of Nursing are headed all over the country, but many have focused their job searches in Virginia, according to Theresa J. Carroll, the school's assistant dean for undergraduate student services.

"The job market for nursing is still pretty tight." Carroll said. "Nursing students are being advised to apply to a lot of hospitals and to make connections with U.Va. alums at hospitals in which they are particularly interested."

About 52 percent of the graduates from the School of Engineering and Applied Science had a job when they walked off the Lawn on Sunday and another 13 percent are moving into graduate school. Of the remainder, about 17 percent do not have jobs at all, and others are weighing offers or considering graduate schools, according to C.J. Livesay, director of engineering career development.
The most common positions for the engineering graduates are in the fields of consulting services, information technology and defense contracting.
"About 17 percent of the engineering graduates have security clearances in hand now," Livesay said. "The engineering job market is better than it seems."

He said the average starting salary for an engineer is about $62,000, which Livesay said was up about $1,000 from last year.

Teachers coming out of the Curry School of Education face a tough job market, as local education budgets contract and fewer veteran teachers retire.

Hilary Kerner, director of education career services at the Curry School, said she is confident that around 100 percent of the Curry graduates will ultimately receive offers, because school systems are looking for the kind of high-quality candidates Curry produces.

"Our graduates will be successful," Kerner said. "But they need to be persistent, because the job market is more challenging."

School districts are waiting later in the year to interview candidates, because they want to be sure about their needs before they hire. Math, science, speech and language and English as a second language teachers are still in high demand.

Many Curry students do their student teaching in Virginia and most plan to stay in the state, but Kerner said students are also looking farther afield for work; some have taken foreign teaching posts in countries such as Bangladesh. Closer to home, a student who hoped to stay in Virginia may end up at a school in South Carolina.

About 80 employers attended a Curry career fair, which Kerner said was fewer than previous years. However, she said other universities in the state did not hold their job fairs at all.

The job market for architecture graduates is starting to pick up, but it is not back to where it was a few years before, according to Ellen S. Cathey, associate dean of students at the School of Architecture.

"Many of the students I've heard from have either not yet initiated a job search or are seeking employment," Cathey said. "Some are going directly to graduate school and others are looking at alternatives."

Among those alternatives are programs such as Teach for America and internships. One is going to Turkey on scholarships to study language and architecture.

"One graduate got a really great job with Behnisch in Boston and Germany," Cathey said. "So the job market is still tough, but getting better."

— By Matt Kelly