Interest in a specific field may initially lure students to certain majors, but professional opportunity can become more important as students approach completion of a degree.
“Personal interest is very important in choosing a major because it’s what you’re planning on doing for the rest of your life,” said John Masear, a senior from Morton studying geography. “But it’s important to major in something that has a potential of getting you a job once you have the degree.”
If finding a job post-graduation is a student’s goal, obtaining job growth information and unemployment rates can be an important step in finding success.
Two articles from the Huffington Post college edition newspaper used census data collected by The Wall Street Journal to observe 11 majors with the highest unemployment rates and 14 majors considered the most employable.
Sources such as the Occupational Information Network, The Wall Street Journal and CNN Money give detailed job growth and unemployment rates for every major based on census data.
Engineering, which has seen increased enrollment at SIUC compared to other colleges within the university, was among the top employable majors. CNN Money ranks environmental and civil engineering fifth and sixth most employable, respectively.
Sanjeev Kumar, professor of engineering, said civil engineering is responsible for the health and safety of the public and contributes tremendously in the improvement of an economy.
“I believe there will be a demand for civil engineers in the coming years … because the American Society of Civil Engineers does a report card of America’s infrastructure, and the grade is D,” Kumar said.
He said the grade given to the United States by the ASCE means there is a great need for improvement of the country’s infrastructure and for the building of a new infrastructure.
“The estimate to improve our infrastructure is over two trillion dollars, which is a lot of work,” Kumar said.
On the other hand, clinical psychology rates are at 19.5 percent unemployment, according to The Wall Street Journal’s census data.
“The majority of psychology fields, especially in clinical, counseling and applied psychologies, are going to be directly tied to health service and … directly impacted by the economy,” said Mary Cashel, an associate professor of psychology.
Whenever there are budget cuts to health services, especially mental health services, positions are going to fall, she said.
Cashel said in this horrible recession, many health centers are struggling because they face both federal and state budget cuts.
The same can be true in academics and university settings, she said.
“When people leave, often those positions don’t get replaced because there isn’t money to do so,” Cashel said. “When money isn’t available, we experience those cuts directly.”
In the present health service climate, students need to commit their effort early, think about what jobs they want to pursue and how they can maximize their chances with complementing minors and experience, she said.
Students need to think about specific experiences they’re going to want to obtain in a paid position or on a volunteer basis, Cashel said. For all degree levels, it’s a good idea to get relevant experience, she said
While relevant experience can be an important aspect to employers, formal internships can make a student’s résumé stand out.
Any internship where students can use the knowledge they’re gaining in classes and any opportunities they can find to enhance soft skills such as leadership skills is what they need to be looking for, Kumar said.
“Working at McDonald’s to flip burgers is not going to help them,” he said. “They need to look for ways to enhance their technical skills and their soft skills.”
Having a well-rounded repertoire of skills can be just as important as interviewing skills.
Cashel also said it’s a good idea for every student to take a course on public speaking.
“It helps everyone, with respect to interviews, because it cues them to think about how they present themselves while interacting with others and to be thoughtful as they’re talking and giving answers,” she said.
Another résumé enhancer could be listing any relevant hobbies.
“Some hobbies enhance your skills to work as a member of a team and to lead activities,” Kumar said.
Kumar said it’s good to have some hobbies listed, especially sports. Athletes are usually very organized and focused, he said.
“If they weren’t, they’d never win a game and in addition to their technical and soft skills, that’s great to have,” Kumar said. “It says a lot about a person as a whole.”
Overall, the job-seeking process can be seen as a multifaceted competition and may include guesswork when it comes to any given employer’s expectations.
“If I were an employer getting a résumé, I’d be looking for what kind of courses a student may have taken, what kind of soft skills they have developed, such as leadership qualities, and maybe a few relevant hobbies,” Kumar said.
He said any major requires focus and effort and students can still find success with dedication.