Tough job market for new grads highlights the importance of internships
Judging by an annual WWU survey, recent graduates face the worst hiring season in decades.
Only 69 percent of 2008-9 graduates reported they had a job in the Career Services Center's annual survey, compared with 74 percent the year before. That's the lowest employment rate in 20 years, according to the report of the survey's results.
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"It's about what we expected," says Tina Loudon, director of the Career Services Center. "It seems the Northwest is the last hit and the last to recover."
The survey includes data from about 57 percent of students who graduated in 2008-2009, collected a few months after graduation.
Salaries were down, too, with bachelor's degree recipients reporting starting wages of $3,000 less per year than the previous year's graduates. Some fields, such as Environmental Science, Marketing and Finance, and Chemistry, reported starting higher salaries, though.
One bright spot: Internships proved valuable for the class of 2008-2009. Students with internship experience found jobs faster, were more likely to find jobs in their field and reported higher starting salaries, Loudon says.
That's important for families to consider when students are weighing whether to accept an unpaid internship, she says.
"If students are going to be employed three months sooner than someone else, an unpaid internship could very well pay off in the long run," Loudon says.
And while hiring has been down, employers haven't cut ties with WWU, she says.
"We still had a good turnout of employers at our career fairs last year," Loudon says. "They're wanting to maintain a relationship with us and in some cases, that was about internships. They wanted to keep the pipeline going, even if they weren't doing so much career hiring."
And national surveys indicate the job market might be improving for new graduates, Loudon says. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that employers in spring 2010 were planning to hire 5.3 percent more grads than last year. That's a small increase, Loudon says, but much better news than the 20 percent drop in hiring plans reported the previous year.
Meanwhile, it's no surprise that more graduates are opting to continue their education. And even in a more competitive admissions environment, WWU students are getting into some competitive programs, including law at Columbia University, cellular and molecular medicine at Johns Hopkins University, pharmacy at the University of Washington, and electrical engineering at Washington State University.