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Employment prospects for graduates

A Q & A with Lynne Schuman, director of career services

Given the state of the global economy, many current and prospective students wonder if jobs will be available for them when they graduate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for 2009 graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher is five percent, compared with 13.8 percent for those with some college and 20.6 percent for those with only a high school diploma. On the face of it, additional education is a good investment.

So, how are Humphrey School graduates faring in the marketplace? In an interview, Lynne Schuman, the director of career services at the Humphrey School, helped to answer this question and provided some advice to recent graduates.

Q: Where do you see bright spots or changes on the job-hunting horizon?
A: In five years, all sectors will see major changes as the result of the retirement of baby boomers, which has been delayed due to the economy. This huge demographic shift will significantly affect government and nonprofit organizations.

Another facet is the impact of the aging population on public policy. For example, how will baby boomers look at housing as they age and how will housing patterns change? Practitioners in health and human service fields will have to address changes and developments in these realms. In addition, the government will need graduates with excellent finance and budgeting skills. Organizations also will need program evaluators to effectively improve programs.

Q: Have you seen any trends in the marketplace, such as hiring at the federal vs. state vs. local level?
A: Currently, the federal government is doing more hiring than state or local agencies. This trend probably will continue in the next few years. However, two opportunities will exist. One is the vacancies left by many retiring baby boomers. The other is the trend toward contracting work out, thus creating more flexibility.

Q: What are the particular skills that Humphrey graduates bring to the workplace? In other words, why should employers hire our alumni?
A: Humphrey School graduates are known for their analytic and critical thinking skills. Our graduates also have good communication skills. Essentially, our alumni combine workplace skills with expertise in particular areas of study or research.

Q: What can students do to increase their chances of career success in the current marketplace?
A: From the moment students arrive, they should investigate what the Humphrey School offers--participate in research and coursework, and connect with professionals. Our alumni mentor program is one way to connect with practitioners. Students also should conduct informational interviews, so that when they finish their degrees they will know who to talk with and how to position themselves in their field of choice.

--Nicole Mielke

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