The young grad entering the hot occupation isn’t necessarily on the road to success. That is unless one also has an effective career plan, job experts say.
Although the job market for recent grads has improved, they say, college major choices are critical. But so are internships and part-time jobs during college. Don’t wait until college is over to figure out how you will make a living, job experts say.
Start Planning for Work in College
“You want to build up a resume that shows real world experience as well as degrees,” says Dawn Fay, New York district president for Robert Half, a big employment agency. Internship is part of that world experience, she adds, and it is becoming more popular with those doing the hiring.
And this year’s intern offer and acceptance rate is above pre-recession levels, according to National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
“This is important,” NACE says in the release, “because from an employer perspective, higher offer rates generally are indicators of a more robust college hiring market.”
Recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York numbers show high employment rates for college graduates majoring in accounting, special education and agriculture. The overall unemployment rate for recent college grads in the United States has been on the decline, according to the Fed.
Fay notes that those grads with business administration and technology knowledge have degrees that are in demand.
Nevertheless, just choosing a major based on the field in demand isn’t enough. It doesn’t guarantee success, notes Matt Stewart. He is an entrepreneur and co-founder of College Works Painting. His firm offers programs helping students use internships that are designed to lead to a full-time position.
Indeed, Stewart and others say that overall numbers don’t tell the entire story. Even in good fields, fields in which there is strong demand, such as technology, a college graduate can still face big hurdles without proper preparations, according to job experts.
Stewart worries that many young people are shielded from the real world. “Some parents tell them just to go to school and get good grades, forget about work for now,” he says.
“Then,” adds Fay, “they come out of college and are shocked by the real world. They have trouble adjusting to the work world.”
This, says Stewart, shows students should think carefully about choosing a major. He argues that many young people choose majors without serious consideration. They don’t seriously consider if this is the area that is right for them for a lifetime or whether it will provide the opportunities they want.
“There’s no question that your field of study significantly alters your prospects, but even having chosen the right field is no guarantee,” Stewart says.
For instance, those with degrees in secondary education are much in demand these days while those with sociology and art history degrees will face long job searches, according to the Fed.
But it’s not all beer and skittles for today’s grad with a popular major.
The Fed study also shows that even in some of the most desirable fields—such as accounting with only 1.8 percent unemployment rate—there is still a high underemployment rate. In accounting it is 26.8 percent. Many have entered the field but with limited success.
For instance, secondary education majors are much in demand, the Fed said, with an unemployment rate of only 2.5 percent. However, their underemployment rate is 26.7 percent.
Overall, the Fed found the average graduate unemployment rate is 5.0 percent. Still, Fay noted that the college degree still matters; that it generally pays off. She said that college grad unemployment is on average half, 2.5 percent, at age 25, four years after graduation.
Fay’s advice: Choose a major that you love, but also find out what work prospects are in that field.
“Talk to someone who has gotten a degree in that field so you understand what your life will be like after college,” she says. So have a backup plan in case your job of choice isn’t immediately available when you graduate.
Fay points to a friend who majored in art history, not a degree in great demand. Nevertheless, she did well after college.
“She also took some business courses, which really helped her in her career and can also help someone’s personal life.”