At the top of the new pedestrian walkway connecting the Rio Tinto Kennecott Mechanical Engineering Building to the west side of north Campus Drive, Saturday, August 22, 2015. Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle.

We are fortunate as college students. We have the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and acquire important life skills that will shape our futures and ultimately determine the strength of our communities.

There are many who are less fortunate. They are hardworking, knowledge-hungry individuals who, because of financial hardship, will never have the opportunity to take advantage of this truly exceptional chance to succeed.

Among those of us who have the coveted luxury to attend an accredited university, our chosen paths to graduation take many forms. While some of us choose to lose ourselves in the beauty of the arts, others find the rigor of science-based curriculum more rewarding.

Regardless of elected major or field of study, we all seek to use this vital period of our lives to enhance our capabilities in the classroom in hopes of translating our education and skills into a career. At least that’s how the majority of college students approached higher-education in the past. With the exception of a small minority of students who attend purely for amusement, the thought of sifting through a saturated job market after graduation only to face the threat of unemployment is a hard pill to swallow.

Somewhere between admission and eventual graduation, an increasing number of students are experiencing just this.

The idea that unemployment rates of people with bachelor’s degrees are exploding to unprecedented levels is gratefully fiction, but there is some truth to the general hysteria. A growing number of graduates are finding it harder to attain employment in their particular field of study. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 2.5 percent of college graduates are unemployed, but nearly 46 percent work in positions that don’t require a four-year degree and fall into the category of “unskilled labor.”

These positions, commonly found in the service industries, are fundamental in sustaining our economic infrastructure, but often do not offer compensation proportional to the pains of those who work in them. This, in addition to the debt accumulated by students, makes working in these positions an unsustainable endeavor for an overqualified workforce.

Since there seems to be no solution to this mismatching of capability to job in sight, many students are abandoning their passions and replacing their majors with more career-oriented degree programs.

One area of study that consistently provides recent graduates with impressively high job placement percentages is the ever-growing, rapidly transforming world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

STEM students aren’t shy in announcing the difficulty of their self-elected life choice, and for good reason. STEM coursework can be mentally exhausting, and “weed out” classes construct the majority of degree programs within these fields. With such high potential for career placement and their tangible impact on the economy, it’s no wonder why many government scholarships cater to those who excel in these programs. Many students are encouraged to forgo personal interests and instead pursue these utility degrees.

Jobs in STEM fields are opening up and growing at a rapid rate, with the accelerated pace of technological advances. Here are a few, lesser known jobs in STEM that have shown significant growth in the past five years:

Digital Forensics

Apart from delivering unimaginable advances in convenience and productivity, technological advances in recent times have completely reshaped many professional disciplines. The field of digital forensics has emerged as a vital way to effectively fight crime in an age where computer dependency is at its highest. Requiring a bachelor’s degree in information technology, this growing field offers competitive pay for employees interested in preventing theft and security breaches online.

De-Extinction Zoology

With the changing landscape of technology and industry, comes the unfortunate scars humans leave on the environment. The goal of zoologists working in de-extinction is to determine the best route of introducing endangered species back into their natural habitats while petitioning local governments for sanctuary space for these creatures vital to ecological diversity. A bachelor’s degree in biology or zoology is required.

Medical Laboratory Scientist

After successfully completing a bachelor’s program and passing a national accrediting test, new medical laboratory scientists are capable of performing diagnostic testing in a clinical setting as well as research and development in pharmaceutical and biomedical industries. Employees in this field enjoy a diverse set of responsibilities in many areas, including hematology, microbiology, coagulation, immunohematology and more. According to the MLS University of Utah web page, “one hundred percent of graduates in the last three years were employed in the field or in a closely related field and/or continued their education within one year of graduation.”

STEM degrees are not for everyone, however. Most students choose to study in areas far removed from a laboratory or technical setting and job placement viability doesn’t need to suffer as a result.

The staggering percentage of graduates who are unable to attain the job they want based on the education they have can be attributed to a combination of issues, one being the lack of resources applicants use when applying. The growing prevalence of technology has provided people an extensive amount of resources to aid in securing those positions, and this, along with the abundant resources offered by the U, should serve to help a frustrated job-seeker finally enter the career they worked so hard to prepare for.

Networking

Normally dismissed as a vague way to describe “getting yourself out there,” networking in a college setting can be surprisingly useful. After finishing general education requirements, students enroll in degree-specific coursework taught by experts in their respective fields. These knowledgeable instructors have extensive experience with topics they have dedicated their life’s work to teach others. Do not assume their experience starts and ends in the classroom. Instead, schedule office hours to pick their brain, ask questions about your professional field of interest and make yourself known. Chances are, they have contacts within that field outside of academia, and many are willing to give references to qualified students.

Social Media

It’s hard to imagine a platform that normally details our misguided political stances, regrettable Saturday nights out and compelled birthday wishes can also play an important role in finding gainful employment. However, sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can act as a useful tool in extending the reach of your resume. LinkedIn is the obvious choice here with its professional format that details pertinent work experience, educational background and professional contact information. Posting your interests in finding a particular job on a site like Facebook might also serve to be useful too.

Career Services

The career services department at the U offers many opportunities for students preparing to enter the workforce. For those just getting started in their preparation, visit its “Find A Job” link where students can learn how to successfully format a resume, search for jobs, prepare for interviews and negotiate salaries. The career services department also provides a step-by-step guide to finding relevant internships with many national companies and instructions on how to earn college credit while gaining valuable experience.

With this information in mind, finding employment after graduation seems manageable more.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

@TheChrony

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