SEATTLE - College graduates often joke that they can always serve up lattes if they can’t get a job in their field. But that’s probably not an issue this year. Nationwide, employers are showing more interest in hiring those with fresh diplomas than in years past, particularly in hot fields like high-tech, nursing or accounting.
Employers are looking to pluck about 17 percent more graduates from this year’s crop than they did in 2006, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. But while the prospect of finding an entry-level job may be improving, it still takes work to land one.
Resa Roth, who graduated from Washington State University’s honors track in December, applied for more than 20 jobs before getting hired at an Everett, Wash., pharmaceutical company.
“I didn’t think it would take too long to find a job, but I found out otherwise,” said Roth, a double major in zoology and Spanish.
Chester Chan, a senior in computer engineering at the University of Washington and a former intern at Microsoft, said it’s the graduates searching for a job who are getting multiple offers and a starting salary of $65,000 and up.
“While the competition for certain jobs - with Google or Microsoft, for example - can be high, there’re a lot of employers to choose from. It takes time and effort,” Chan said.
Apex Systems, a national recruiting firm that works with IT professionals, is looking to hire 550 entrylevel employees this year. The company has been to 10 job fairs; typically it would have attended two by this time in the school year.
Michele McCauley, director of human resources, said Apex Systems is stepping up advertising in college publications, but isn’t offering signing bonuses or cash incentives to lure graduates in. Salaries at its Seattle office start at $32,400.
Representatives of Microsoft and other highprofile tech firms told students at a conference at Bellevue Community College in February that there is a huge demand for qualified applicants in the IT sector.
“The more you augment that resume, the better your chances of getting that first good job,” said keynote presenter Joel Chaplin, chief information officer and vice president of Information Technology for Infospace. “Networking can’t be overstated.”
His company typically doesn’t hire entry-level employees, although sometimes it does consider graduates with internship experience. A typical starting wage is $35,000 to $65,000.
Darrel Bowman, CEO of AppTech, told attendees, “You can get your degree, and that still won’t guarantee a job.”
Companies are looking for those who communicate well and present themselves professionally, he said.
Sommers said a college degree leads to better lifetime earnings. In Washington state, those with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned an average annual wage of nearly $69,000, while those with an associate’s degree earned about $48,000, according to the 2006 Washington State Labor Market and Economic Report.