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Improved Job Market for Class of 2004

May 06, 2004 — Students in the class of 2003-2004 who will graduate from the University of Utah on Friday face a better job market than their counterparts one year ago, due to an improving economy and the increasing hiring needs of employers.

According to a report on the spring 2004 job outlook by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers predict they will increase their hiring of college graduates by 12.7 percent this year. Most employers who were asked to share their perspectives on the job market for 2003-2004 grads were positive since they see the job market improving.

Employers have come to recognize the value of a college education, notes Stan Inman, director of Career Services at the University of Utah. “Even for sales and retail management positions bosses want to hire a degreed individual. That’s the starting point,” he says.

And, Inman has more reassuring news for graduates: “Education is still the best investment you can make. For each year of post-high school education, students can expect a 15 to 20 percent increase in compensation. Over a lifetime that is huge!” Inman says.

According to a 2002 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, full-time, year-round workers with a bachelor’s degree had 1.8 times the annual earnings of workers with only a high school diploma. The same study reports: “Over a work-life, individuals who have a bachelor’s degree would earn on average $2.1 million-about one-third more than workers who did not finish college, and nearly twice as much as workers with only a high school diploma. A master’s degree holder tops a bachelor’s degree holder at $2.5 million. Doctoral ($3.4 million) and professional degree holders ($4.4 million) do even better.”

While the job market has improved, this year’s college graduates will still spend an average of six months finding jobs, with timelines varying depending on the industry and academic discipline. “Those new graduates who have spent time preparing themselves-researching jobs, finalizing resumes, conducting mock interviews-are finding good opportunities. Those who have had relevant internships or cooperative educational experiences in their field often have an advantage in finding a job,” Inman says.

Similar to last year, jobs in health-related fields like nursing and pharmacy are plentiful. There is also demand for workers in accounting, business administration, engineering, computer science and education, Inman says.

James A. Wood, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University’s David Eccles School of Business, reports that Utah’s unemployment rate in March was five percent, compared to an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent in March 2003. “Unemployment is down and we are seeing some very good improvement in the labor market,” Wood notes, adding that the number of Utah jobs created in March of this year was up 14,900 from last year at that time.

Another NACE article about the spring 2004 job search noted that graduating students’ “salary expectations were modest and consistent with reality. The largest group (41.6 percent) expects to earn between $20,000 and $30,000 as they step into the working world. Just under a third (32.7 percent) expect to begin their careers earning between $30,001 and $40,000, and nearly 15 percent think they will earn between $40,001 and $50,000.” The nearly 11 percent remaining expect to earn less than $20,000 or more than $50,000.

In the same survey students rated medical insurance, annual salary increases, 401(k) plans, dental insurance and life insurance as the most important benefits attached to a job.

The U’s Career Services Library, which contains information on a wide variety of topics, including career/major research, job search strategies and employment trends, is open to students, faculty and staff as well as the general public. U graduates may use these resources indefinitely, although after two years they are charged a nominal fee for any alumni career counseling. For more information on career trends and opportunities for college graduates, visit the University of Utah’s Career Library, 350 Student Services Building, open weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., call 801-581-6186 or go to