June 25, 2008
Job Market Hot for Grads With Right Degrees
MILWAUKEE - Mike Borden appreciates all the attention he's been getting from potential employers. He also knows it's not personal.
They don't want him, exactly. They want his degree.
Borden, who accepted an internship with NASA this summer, graduated this month from the Milwaukee School of Engineering with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He had a job offer from Illumination Optics in Wauwatosa but decided to go with NASA to push his engineering degree and training as far as he could.
"I know it's pretty in demand," Borden said of his degree. "I don't know if there's any other major that is more broad or open to anything you want."
Borden's major puts him in one of a handful of fields for which colleges are failing to produce enough graduates to meet employers' needs.
Engineering topped this year's list of the 10 hardest jobs to fill, according to the annual compilation by Milwaukee-based staffing agency Manpower Inc. Second on that list was machinists/ machine operators, followed by skilled trades, technicians, sales representatives, accounting and finance staff, mechanics, laborers, IT staff and production operators.
Yet engineering ranked ninth in the number of undergraduate degrees awarded in Wisconsin in 2005-`06, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. First on that list is business, followed by education; the social sciences; health professions; communications; biological and biomedical sciences; visual and performing arts; and psychology.
The disparity is seen in salaries. Mechanical engineering graduates are commanding strong starting salaries: Someone with a four-year degree in mechanical engineering starts at about $58,000 a year, according to a spring 2008 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Someone with a bachelor's in business administration starts around $44,000, and a four-year accounting degree will get you $47,000.
In contrast, the starting salary for a four-year degree in English is about $33,000, while sociology graduates start at $27,000.
Jason Eckert, associate director of Marquette University's Career Services Center, said reasons vary for a shortage of graduates in a given field. For engineering or accounting, rigorous math or science requirements might deter students, he said.
In computer sciences, Eckert said, the cloud of the burst dot- com bubble still scares people away from the field.
"The bottom line is we're struggling to produce enough of certain degrees," he said.
Greg Krejci, director of career services for the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said it doesn't hurt to think about the careers that are out there when picking a major.
"I loved history, but I knew unless I wanted to teach, there weren't going to be a whole lot of jobs in it," Krejci said. "You say, `I love anthropology, I'm going to study anthropology,' but what are you going to do with that?"
Originally published by McClatchy Newspapers.
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