When Jessica Henry, a senior at the University of Georgia, began college four years ago she thought she would graduate with a job offer. Now, weeks before graduation, she has accepted an unpaid summer internship in her field of study.
"I thought internships were something you did while in college," said Henry, who will graduate with a bachelor's degree in public relations and a minor in speech communications. But, she said, it's what she has to do to gain experience: “It’s a launching pad and a good first step for experience.”
Class of 2010, welcome to the real world.
As college students around the country prepare for graduation in the coming weeks, they will be entering a job market with unemployment at 9.7 percent, double what it was back in 2006 when most of them started college.
But there is some good news: the job market has improved slightly from last year, according to career experts, and certain sectors like government, health care and financial services are hiring.
"The job market for the 2010 class is certainly better than it was for 2009, but it is still weak," said Steven Rothberg, chief executive officer of CollegeRecruiter.com, an Internet job-posting site. "There is still not the need for hiring as there was two and a half years ago."
Fifty percent of human resource executives surveyed by employment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said outlook for college graduates is about the same as a year ago, with about 28 percent saying it will be just slightly better than a year ago. Twelve percent said the job market would be much better than a year ago.
In terms of which graduates would have the best chance of employment success, those going into health care, business administration, computer science and accounting or finance had the best shot at employment.
One of those sectors—accounting—has seen, or expects to see, an uptick in hiring. Deloitte plans to hire about 5,300 college grads this year for full time positions and paid internships, a 10 to 15 percent increase from last year, said Diane Borhani, Deloitte’s director of campus recruiting. A positive sign, considering the company saw a 20 percent decrease in hires for the class of 2009, compared to the previous year, according to Borhani.
And competitor PricewaterhouseCoopers is expected to hire 2,500 full time college grads this year, about 5 percent lower than last year’s level, but has plans to bring that number up to 3,000 next year. “The outlook is positive,” said Holly Paul, the national recruiting leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
One employer that has continued to hire college grads: the federal government.
"A year ago the advice to new grads was pack up your futon and move to D.C.," said Rothberg. "Government continues to be a bright spot in a weak labor market."
Goverment jobs are becoming more popular with students, too, especially as they seek a career with some more stability in this shaky job market. "We can pack a room" when government recruiters make their way to campus, said Darryl Stevens, the assistant director of counseling and career development services at the University of California Riverside.
But for those who are having trouble finding a full time job, some may have to resort to internships or part time work to gain experience first. Wendy F. Morosoff, the director of the Career Development Center at The State University of New York at Purchase, said that she's seen a spike in both part time employment and internships (both paid and unpaid) this year, a trend that other colleges have also seen.
“These college students are a little more willing to accept something that might be transitional," said Stevens. "Whether it’s an internship or a part time job."
“For college grads,” said Henry, the University of Georgia senior. “Internships are the easiest, and available way, to get their foot in the door.”