BY ANDREA NEALON
The smell of fresh doughnuts provided a warm welcome for Ally Kight as she entered the Centreville Physical Therapy building in Northern Virginia.
Having endured muscular complications from scoliosis her whole life, she was no stranger to the vocation of physical therapy and sports medicine. That particular summer day, however, she was pain-free and looking forward to meeting her potential employers.
Kight was applying to become a Physical Therapy Aide at the privately owned clinic in Centreville. She left the Dunkin’ Donuts on the first floor and made her way upstairs to meet with the owner, Joanne Gryski.
“I was excited the morning of the interview since it was a job I was very interested in getting,” Kight said. “I was also a little bit nervous when they called me back, since I really didn’t know what to expect having only interviewed for a few jobs in my life.”
Kight, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, was very eager to land a job in her field. She received her degree in 2008 from the University of Mary Washington.
According to the Office of Career Services at the UMW, Kight isn’t alone in her anxieties of finding employment upon graduation. But Career Services Director Gary Johnson confirms that between 95 and 97 percent of Mary Washington grads seeking employment typically find something within six months following commencement.
Career Services surveys graduates six months after commencement; the most recent survey contains data from 2007. Johnson calculated that roughly 70 percent of Mary Washington graduates seek employment, while 25 percent pursue further education in graduate studies programs. The other 5 percent is comprised of Mary Washington grads who typically were part-time adult students and already employed.
Data from Mary Washington’s Career Services survey also shows that of the students who sought employment in 2007, 45 percent of students were employed prior to graduation and 40 percent were employed by the third month following graduation.
Along with researching employment data, Career Services provides networking opportunities between students and employers by assisting them in obtaining internships with professional organizations. These internships provide students with credible experience in their particular fields.
Approximately 95 percent of professional organizations responding to NACE’s Job Outlook 2008 survey named candidate experience as one of the most significant factors in their hiring decisions.
“Not only does participation in an internship make the student a more attractive candidate, but also it can be an avenue to a job,” said Marilyn Mackes, the executive director of the NACE in a May 1 press release.
“My employers were mostly interested in my biology background, my ability to multitask, and my people skills,” Kight said. “We talked about my resume, my employer’s expectations of me should I be hired, and my expectations for the job.”
If students do not participate in an internship program, for whatever reason, field experience has also proven to be an appropriate alternative and a desirable quality among employers.
“They did ask if I had any previous experience with physical therapy,” said former student-athlete Kight, “and although I hadn’t ever worked in a physical therapy office, they were pleased that I had taken a handful of classes in college that related directly to PT, including Human Anatomy, Exercise Physiology and even a Sports Medicine class I took in high school.”
Not only do most graduates of Mary Washington find employment, but many find jobs within their particular majors. Instead of asking if graduates were able to find a job within their specific major, the survey asks “Is your major related to your work?”
Johnson reports that 50 percent of respondents say “very much,” while 33 percent say “somewhat.”
According to the article “Most Lucrative College Majors,” published by Forbes Magazine in 2008, the highest paid jobs are found in computer engineering and computer science majors. The median salary is between $50,000 and $60,000 per year for a graduate with zero to five years experience.
However, the NACE reports that the fields offering the most jobs nationwide to 2007-2008 graduates were private accounting,
entry-level management, project engineering, and consulting. These average yearly salaries range from $41,740 to $56,542.
According to Forbes, new 2008 graduates who majored in English, psychology, political science and biology could expect to earn an average annual salary of just under $40,000; business and marketing majors could expect around $40,000; and finance and economics majors could expect around $50,000.
“Because of the downturn in the economy, private industrial companies are reducing hiring,” said Johnson. These private industries refer mainly to non-governmental jobs and private companies.
Johnson projected that positions within the teaching and accounting fields, as well as the federal government, will still continue to hire significant numbers of college graduates.
Dr. Steven Greenlaw of the University of Mary Washington economics department explains that it takes new college graduates six months on average to find a job; with the current economic recession, it could take students an average of eight months.
“So far, the news is not bad,” said Greenlaw. “A third of the baby boomers are expected to retire within the next five years, and that will create a lot of job openings, especially within the federal government.”
But to ensure a job upon or shortly after graduation, Greenlaw advises seniors to put out their resumes and start searching for jobs as early as October.
Mary Washington senior Mikey Pride will graduate after this semester and has already found success in the job market. In an effort to prepare for her career and to enhance her resume, Pride studied abroad over the summer in Morocco. She will begin her job at the Moroccan-American Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. in January 2009.
Although she’s looking forward to the new experience, Pride commented “I’m nervous because I still feel like a college kid.”
Kight, who is now a full time Physical Therapy Aide in Centreville, remembers her days at Mary Washington fondly. Whether you are planning on attending graduate school or searching for a career, she reminds seniors to enjoy their last year in college.
“Try to keep everything in perspective,” said Kight. “Graduating college is just one small piece of the giant puzzle.”