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The job prob: Forecasting your future in the job market

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How can you maximize your career prospects in our fast-evolving professional world? How can you use your time at college to position yourself for the job market you’ll face after graduation? The Job Prob, our monthly series, guides you through the steps.

How is the professional world treating new graduates, anyway? What can you expect?

Leadership skills: What they’re worth to employers, and how to get them.

Rain or shine?

We’ve all heard the reports of rising unemployment, slow job growth, and a bleak job outlook for recent graduates. The net worth of young adults has declined in the last thirty years, according to the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research organization. This forecast has been unsettling to college students who are banking on landing that perfect (or at least decent) job after they graduate.

But your job prospects are brighter than you might have realized. While some occupational prospects continue to decline, the overall job market is looking up—especially for recent college graduates.

Students can use their college years strategically, acquiring the skill sets, practical experience, and networks that will position them for success in their careers.

To capitalize on this pick-up in employment prospects, use your college years strategically.

The full list of occupations with the fastest job growth

Increasing opportunities

Field Specialties Median salary range Prospects
Engineering* Petroleum, aerospace, computer, chemical, mechanical, civil $62,100–95,300 Very good
Health care** Registered nursing, home health aides $31,150–90,930 Very good
Construction* Electricians, insulators, bricklayers $29,670–39,170 Good
Education** Childcare workers, teachers $19,510–53,400 Fair
Food services** Cooks, fast-food workers $18,260–20,030 Fair

* https://www.naceweb.org/s04162014/top-paid-majors-class-of-2014.aspx?land-salres-lp-1-spot-tpaid-05092014
** https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_104.htm

Diminishing opportunities

Field Specialties Median salary range Prospects
Woodworking** Model makers, pattern makers $28,470–31,510 Very poor
Photography** Process workers, processing machine operators $19,500–23,280 Very poor
Textile** Machine setters and operators $21,620–24,290 Very poor
Broadcast journalism** Reporters, correspondents, news analysts $35,870–55,380 Poor
Agriculture** Ranchers, farmers $69,300 Poor
Postal services** Mail carriers $53,100 Very Poor


Mostly sunny

Nineteen of the 30 occupations that are projected to grow the fastest in the next eight years require postsecondary education, according to the US Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The employment scene for new graduates looks good,” says Tiffany Johnson, associate director of career services at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

In addition, hiring is picking up overall.  The class of 2014 will benefit from an eight percent increase in hiring over last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Of the 20 fastest-growing occupations, 70 percent are in a health-related field—in part because our population is aging—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is good news for graduates in the sciences and health-care fields. Other growth industries include government, finance, insurance, real estate, and retail trade, according to NACE.

In case of a rainy day

There is rough weather ahead for certain occupations. Jobs in fields such as agriculture, postal services, photography, and broadcast journalism—where technological advances have displaced workers—are declining significantly.

Your academic résumé

Students who are not majoring in hot fields can round out their skill set and improve their marketability through strategic choice of courses. “If you are a liberal arts major, you should absolutely follow your passions. That said, even though you might not love business or accounting or marketing, it’s valuable to have a course or two that at least exposes you to a different kind of language. You’re in a risk-free environment: Why not take the opportunity to learn something new and challenge yourself?” says Nicolette Sherman, vice president responsible for human resources, at Sanofi North America, a leading healthcare company.

Practical experience and initiative

Employers are looking for candidates with practical experience, such as internships. They also value graduates who have developed their leadership and communication skills, or participated in international exchanges that demonstrate cross-cultural awareness.

“When I look at resumes I’m interested in how savvy people have been about how they invested their discretionary efforts,” says Ms. Sherman. “You’ve got to be able to show you’re going to take the initiative, that you have drive and passion, and you are motivated by your interests.”

Follow The Job Prob for:

  • Strategic choice of courses
  • Developing leadership skills
  • Practical experience
  • Building your network
  • Revitalizing your resume
  • Leveraging your online profile
  • The job hunt

Top 5 growing fields

  • Engineering
  • Health care
  • Construction
  • Education
  • Food services
Forecasting your future in the job market

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