What course of study should a graduating high school student pursue in college? Business, electronics, computer science, engineering? Some students know what they want to study, what career they want to pursue. Many do not.
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Consider this item from a recent in-depth Wall Street Journal article by Dr. Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management and director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School and professor of education:
“Anthony Carnevale, of Georgetown’s Center on Education and Workforce, calculates that the unemployment rate among recent IT graduates at the moment is actually twice that of theater majors.” What’s really hot in IT now are mobile communications. What’s hot now could be overloaded with grads in four years or less.
What Cappelli advises is that college students delay choosing majors and specialized courses to better match with current employer interests.
Employers are really interested in grads with work experience. Companies looking at recent college grads gave internships a 23 on a scale of 1 to 100. That was the highest ranking. Employment during college got a 21. College major only got a 13. Relevance of coursework and college GPA both rated an 8.
Majors with the highest unemployment rate? Information systems majors led with 14.7 percent. Architecture and anthropology got 12.8 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively. The 11 percent unemployment rate award went to political science and film-video-photography majors.
Majors with the lowest unemployment rate were nursing at 4.8 percent, elementary education at 5 percent, physical fitness/parks and recreation at 5.2 percent, chemistry at 5.8 percent and finance at 5.9 percent.
Cappelli pointed out one innovative program at the Tuck Business School that offers a non-degree certificate Business Bridge program for seniors, juniors and recent grads. “The program offers a general management curriculum as well as career development to enter the job market.”
In contrast to Cappelli’s Nov. 11 article is a Sept. 21 interview with Bob Funk, president and founder of Express Employment Agency, the fifth largest employment agency in the country, with annual sales of $2.5 billion. The Oklahoma-based Funk told Wall Street Journal interviewer Stephen Moore that he has up to 20,000 jobs the company can’t fill because the workers don’t have the skills.
“His advice to young people looking for a solid career is to get training in accounting (thanks to Dodd-Frank’s huge expansion of paperwork), information technology, manufacturing-robotics programming, welding and engineering. He’s mystified why Express has so much trouble filling thousands of information technology jobs when working age adults are computer literate,” Moore wrote.
Funk revealed the real secret to getting a job when he said, “Anyone who really wants a job in this country can have one.”
His three criteria for getting and keeping a job are, “First, you need integrity; second, a strong work ethic; and, third, you have to be able to pass a drug test.” Meet those three requirements and “I guarantee I can find employers tomorrow who will hire you.”
Amazingly one in four applicants can’t pass a drug test, Funk said.
Navigating to the right major and getting a job may still leave 60 percent of college students with another problem: debt. Out of 20 million attending college each year, 12 million borrow annually to help cover costs, according to statistics compiled by the American Student Assistance. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates 37 million have outstanding student loan debt, which totals somewhere between $902 billion and $1 trillion.
A CNBC report in 2010 noted that some students had debit cards for their student loans and were able to use those to buy pizza and beer.
In October 2012 the average student loan debt for the class of 2011 was $26,600, 5 percent more than in 2010.
Should a graduate get a job, a single person making less than $75,000 a year can deduct $2,500 of interest on the student loan. But if you are an MBA grad making $120,000 in Silicon Valley or $150,000 on Wall Street there is no interest deduction. You will be penalized for your success.
The best way to reduce or avoid student debt altogether is to attend community college for two years. One can use this time to fulfill lower division courses, even take some computer tech course, business and accounting courses. Spend the summers working. When one transfers to a four-year college the degree reads the same as someone who spent all four years there. It doesn’t say your degree only cost half of the other person’s or that you lived with your folks for the first two years of college.