Sept. 12--About one-third of all college graduates are underemployed, according to a recent study, which has amplified the importance of finding courses of study that will lead to more job opportunities.
Coming out of the recession, more students and parents are asking how earning a degree will connect them with a career, said Jason Eckert, director of career services at the University of Dayton.
Eckert said choosing a field of study is a conversation he starts with students before they enter the university, and his office offers resources and advisors to help. The choice, he said, should reflect a combination of their "individual passion and the economy."
"It can't just be one or the other," he said.
The stakes are high for college students. Along with the issue of underemployment, recent graduates typically leave school with $26,600 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Project on Student Debt.
We asked nine area public and private universities and community colleges to highlight their programs with high job-placement rates. Here are some programs in which local graduates are finding success:
PAPER SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
What: Bachelor's degree
Where: Miami University
Why: Every graduate was offered a job
Salary: Miami graduates earn an average starting salary of $66,000, and work in a variety of positions
Graduates of Miami's paper science program are dealing with an uncommon dilemma: they have to choose between multiple job offers, even before they finish school. Each of the 11 graduates this year were offered jobs by companies across the country, although two decided instead to pursue master's degree before entering the field.
"There's a lot of competition for our graduates," said Jonathan Kerr, executive director of the Miami University Paper Science and Engineering Foundation, which provides scholarships to students.
The program was created at Miami in 1957, and students can now earn a paper science concentration with a chemical engineering or engineering management degree. It is one of eight such programs in the country.
"Every paper company in the country goes to those eight schools and drains them of their graduates," said professor Steven Keller.
Keller said the paper industry has suffered some image problems, including many people saying paper would no longer be needed because of new technologies. But the industry is still the 10th largest in the United States, he said.
In recent years, paper companies were left "scrambling" for qualified workers to fill spots vacated by retirees, Miami said. Between 2007 and 2012, one-fifth of the paper workforce in North America was set to retire, leaving 3,000 jobs openings a year, the university tells prospective students.
What: Bachelor's degree
Where: Wright State University
Why: Every graduate has a job or is pursuing an advanced degree
Salary: Median pay is $41,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Wright State University's athletic training program has a 100 percent job placement rate for students who want to work right after graduation. Some students instead choose to pursue a more advanced degree before entering the job market or go onto medical school.
Bottom line, according to program director Tony Ortiz, is: said, "If they want a job in athletic training, we can get them a job."
Ortiz attributes his program's stellar record to a family-like network among athletic trainers, and the broad education that students uniquely get at Wright State.
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