The Road to Future Employment – Majors, Grad School, Internships

Why do you go to school? That thought crosses the minds of most students at some point during their college years. In the end, though, many hope all the time, money and stress will result in a job — but it might just depend on your major.

On a career outcomes page Eric Bloomquist, career coach with Career Services, is putting together, he noticed U students graduating in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields tend to have more of a direct path into a job relating to their major. Still, most U graduates, according to a recent survey, are able to find something.

“There are job opportunities out there for students with majors that are less linear or less obvious,” he said. “They may just take a little more creative thinking and a better job articulating the transferrable skills.”

Bloomquist said one reason things are looking up for recent graduates is that the economic recession is on its way out.

According to data published by H&R Block, there is a difference between the best and worst majors in terms of landing a job. Business, health professions and computer sciences are in high demand, while most of the social sciences and humanities have unemployment rates between 4.5 and 7.5 percent.

Brian Burton, associate director for employer engagement at Career Services, doesn’t agree with the statistics.

“They say that for engineers, there is such a demand right now. That might be a distorted view,” he said. “Any functioning company really has a need of students will all majors.”

The Graduate School Route

Hilary Hamilton, a U graduate, received her bachelor’s degree in political science with the intent of going to law school. During her senior year, she realized that was not her passion and instead worked toward a master’s of public health. Hamilton found it difficult to find a job with just her bachelor’s, which drove her decision to go to graduate school.

“More and more people are going to grad school because they don’t know what they want to do with their life yet,” she said. “Grad school is a way to continue on with school and still feel legitimate. You are going toward something good and not just sitting around.”

From the skills she learned in her graduate program, Hamilton found a job while still in school. But she also knows people who graduated with their master’s and still struggled.

Burton said graduate school can help students but is not necessary to get a job.

“It depends on what and where the student wants to be within a company,” he said. “For most jobs, I would say employers are less concerned that the student has a graduate degree versus if the student has the skill sets they need.”

Internship Experience

The greatest shift in employment Burton has seen in recent years is a focus on internships, which help employers get a sense of the talent a student has and gives him or her experience in the field.

Chris Orr graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s in marketing and immediately found work because of an internship he got through Career Services. His first internship with the Utah Grizzlies helped him realize what he did not want to do as a career. His internship with Skull Candy led to his current job as a logistics supervisor.

“There is opportunity out there if you know where to look and how to position yourself in the best way possible,” he said. “Getting out of the academic bubble is very valuable.”

For students in all majors, the U’s Career Services offers resources to find internships and work.

Best and Worst Majors

Emily McCoy Marley, a career coach for Career Services, works individually with students to choose a major and a career path. She said it is hard to determine which majors have the best job outlooks.

“Every major has excellent job prospects if you focus on the experiences that you have when you are an undergrad,” she said. “What’s really important with those degrees is that you are getting internships, doing volunteer work, part-time jobs or research — whatever additional work that you need to really craft the career that you want.”

She said some students, such as those in education, generally find work immediately after graduating, but their salary might not be as high as someone working in computer technology.

Victor De Lara, a senior in psychology, did not choose his major with a specific career in mind but figured he would be able to apply the knowledge to other disciplines. No jobs jumped out at him in the psychology field, but he saw unlimited options in the Business School.

“In the Psychology Department they didn’t really emphasize post-graduation careers,” he said. “The students have the mentality that you can’t do much with that major unless you go on to graduate school, but if you go into the business building … there are unlimited possibilities as to where you can work.”

Future Employment

Local, regional and national companies often come to the U to recruit. Career fairs, such as the two upcoming events on Sept. 22 and 29, bring in more employers than ever before, Bloomquist said. More than 100 businesses and companies will be at the Union to network with students.

Ultimately, students are in charge of finding their future careers, but the university and Career Services can provide resources.

“The more information we are able to give students,” Burton said, “the more informed decisions they are able to make.”

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@carolyn_webber