The Class of 2015 has the best job market ahead of it after graduation since before the recession, one in which employers are predicted to hire even more graduates than they anticipated they would in the fall.
Employers now say they will hire 9.6 percent more college graduates in 2015 than they hired in 2014, which is up from 8.3 percent as predicted in the fall, according to the Job Outlook Spring 2015 Update Survey published this April from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, using data collected from Feb. 9 through March 23.
The current prediction for the gains in overall hiring has also increased from the fall predictions. While the November Job Outlook survey projected 46 percent of employers would increase their individual hiring numbers from last year, the Spring Update now predicts more than 55 percent of respondents to do so.
This is reflected in the number of job postings reported by employers: This year, the average employer posted an average of 148 jobs for college graduates, compared to 99 postings in 2013–14, according to the NACE. These numbers were drawn from employers that are member organizations of NACE and responded to the survey, many of whom are ones that target specialized skills like accounting and computer science.
NACE Research Manager Andrea Koncz said the increase in job postings is indicative of an improving economy.
“[Employers] always like to keep their college hiring up,” she said. “Usually when there’s improvement in the job market, it filters down to the college job market specifically — they kind of go hand in hand.”
Apart from the first quarters of 2011 and 2014, the United States’ economy has seen positive percent changes in its gross domestic product from quarter to quarter, reaching a peak of 5 percent in the latter half of 2014, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.
John Bradac, director of career services at Ithaca College, said he sees the national hiring trends reflecting on the college’s campus. He said students everywhere are seeing the best market since the late 1990s.
“It’s very clear to me that the market is moving forward, but … students need to know what they want and have a good sense of direction,” he said.
Senior Dante Vittone, a television-radio and media production major, acknowledges that he needs to narrow his focus in his job search. He is currently finishing his final semester with the college at the Los Angeles Program where he is interning for ReKon Productions, a production company in Santa Monica, California, and is actively job searching on Craigslist.
“I’m positive I’ll find something in the next few months,” he said. “It’s just a matter of narrowing down what I want to do.”
An improving economy allows employers to be more selective as well. Koncz said more recruiters are visiting college campuses immediately in the fall to find the brightest students.
Last year at the college, Bradac said, Career Services had 4,488 job postings through e-recruiting events and 11 career fairs. This year, he said he anticipates reaching an equal volume, if not higher. The count as of April 21 stands at about 2,565 job postings and internship opportunities for Ithaca College students through the e-recruiting events alone, and the final number after including those from the career fairs will be determined at the end of May.
“We’ve noticed the uptick of more aggressive behavior by employers saying ‘We want your students,’” he said. “There’s a healthy balance right now between employers actively recruiting and students looking for job opportunities.”
As of April 22, at the college there are 1,255 undergraduate student candidates and 101 graduate student candidates for graduation in May, Cindy Clark, assistant registrar for student services, said.
Bradac said about 80 percent of these recruiters are looking for college graduates in general, regardless of major, while a smaller portion come specifically for students in the college’s more specialized programs, like physical therapy.
On a national scale, the most marketable graduates are those with degrees in engineering, computer science and business, according to the NACE survey.
NACE’s first Salary Survey report for the Class of 2015, released in January, reported average starting salaries for these fields as about $63,000, $61,300 and $51,500. In comparison, the average starting salary for engineering graduates in 2014 was $62,700; for computer science, $61,700; and for business, $53,900.
But students in liberal arts programs may have it tougher, Koncz said.
“It typically might take them longer to find a job, but it’s not to say they won’t find a job,” she said.
Senior Will Marinelli, a music education major, is at ease with the prospect of freelancing in classical percussion in New York City, a plan that is still several years away. His next step after graduating is earning his master’s degree in music and percussion at New York University.
At the college, he said he utilized a combination of Career Services programs, like graduate school workshops, and a mentorship within the School of Music in making his post-graduate plans.
In light of a healthy market, it is preparation that Bradac said is essential and cannot be ignored. He said Career Services is on track to log about 10,000 visits with students this year.
“We’re a very busy and robust office when it comes to the activity of our student population,” he said. “The key is being prepared.”
Across all areas of study, Koncz said the key skills employers are looking for are teamwork, work ethic and leadership. Bradac added several others to this list, including verbal and written communication, problem-solving and the ability to be flexible and versatile.
Senior Jeremy Li, a journalism major, said he still sees the job market as a difficult one because companies have specific positions and are looking for specialized skills among many applications. As an international student, the stakes are higher to stay in the United States once he is no longer a full-time student — he must find a company willing to sponsor a work visa.
Li, after he spends the fall in a Semester at Sea program through University of Virginia, plans to try to practice in his field of journalism here, rather than his home in China.
“It would be good for me to stay here to gain some experience — here it’s like a career launching pad,” he said.
In his 30th year in career counseling, Bradac said he predicts the positive growth in job opportunities for college graduates to continue.
“In fact, I only see very positive things to come,” Bradac said.