Forty-three percent of the class of 2012 found employment by the time of graduation, according to the recently released findings of the Plans at Graduation Survey issued to seniors by the Center for Education in Action (EIA) in May. The 43 percent of students who reported employment at graduation represents a six-year high in the College’s May employment survey.
In addition to those employed, 11 percent reported plans to attend graduate or professional school, 12 percent received a postgraduate internship or fellowship and 10 percent will follow another path, such as volunteer work or travelling. Twenty four percent of seniors who responded to the May survey were still looking for employment at the time of graduation.
The EIA has seen a steady annual increase in the postgraduate employment rate since 2009, when students reporting employment reached an all-time low. Post-graduation employment has risen almost 20 percentage points in the last three years, and jumped from 36 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2012.
Associate Dean of the College and Director of Center for Education Lisa Gates attributes the increase in immediate postgraduate employment to an earlier start in the job search process.
“More students are engaging with this process earlier in their senior year than they may have been previously,” said Gates. “Students are starting to realize that there are opportunities that they need to engage with during their senior year if they want to have something in place at graduation.”
Taking advantage of the College’s network has also proven to be effective in helping students find work right after college.
“I think students are using the Middlebury network more than ever now,” said Associate Director of Career Services Tim Mosehauer. “We have been really fortunate in engaging Middlebury alumni and parents, and so as a result, there have been more opportunities.”
The EIA also aims to establish contact with students in their first year in the hopes that they will feel more comfortable and prepared for postgraduate plans by senior year. In its efforts to reach out to underclassmen students, the EIA had its first-ever open house for the class of 2016 during orientation.
“One of our roles here at the EIA is to naturalize the job search process,” said Director of Career Services Don Kjelleren. “If you come to the EIA as a first-year student and you start thinking about these issues, by the time you are a senior, you really have a much clearer assessment of what your options are and how to go after them.”
The EIA, however, recognizes that students delve into postgraduate planning according to their own internal clocks.
“There are different time lines for different people, as far as job searches and post-grad plans go,” said Mosehauer. “We are here for information, and we encourage people to tap into it whenever they are ready and at their own pace.”
The results of the Class of 2012 Plans at Graduation Survey broke down the employment numbers into professional fields, revealing that education (22 percent), consulting (15 percent) and finance/banking (12 percent) were the most popular sectors. Other popular fields included science and technology, food and agriculture, healthcare and media and communications.
According to Kjelleren, education has been “the perennial top destination” for Middlebury students seeking employment immediately following graduation.
The EIA has also seen growing interest in business innovation and environmental sectors among students, a trend that is not captured in the survey’s results.
“We are finding that start-ups, entrepreneurial endeavors and environmental areas are really hot, and that is not really reflected in this most recent survey,” said Mosehauer.
Kjelleren admitted that the May survey does not give a complete picture of the distribution of jobs across professional sectors, but anticipates that the six-month survey — to be issued to 2012 graduates in November — will provide a more comprehensive report of students’ career plans.
“The Plans At Graduation Survey is a snapshot of May, and there are certain industries that recruit later in the year, like September and October, which will be reflected in the survey that comes out in November,” said Kjelleren.
The results of this year’s survey also demonstrate the growing appeal of postgraduate internships for Middlebury students.
“Postgraduate internships have more than doubled since we started this survey, and is a trend that will likely continue,” said Kjelleren. “[Internships are] a good short-term work strategy.”
According to Gates, a postgraduate internship can be a useful stepping-stone in students’ early careers. “[Post-graduation internships] often turn into permanent positions at that organization, or networking through other organizations,” she said.
While employment and postgraduate internship rates have increased in recent years, the number of students bound for graduate school has fallen. Gates credits this decrease to the cost of graduate school tuition and a desire among students to join the work force before matriculating in a graduate program.
“Students are increasingly concerned about debt and they want to be absolutely certain that this is a graduate degree they want and is essential to what they want to do,” said Gates. “It does make sense to spend a couple of years working first.”
Kjelleren pointed out that a survey issued one to five years after graduation might yield different results regarding graduate school enrollment than the May survey’s results.
“We have had a difficult time in attracting a lot of students to come to graduate school information sessions,” said Kjelleren. “There may not be the student appetite. A five year survey may say something different and graduate school numbers will probably be very high.”
The EIA May survey serves not only to provide a snapshot of a graduating class’s immediate plans but also to help the EIA shape its strategy.
“For each year’s class, we get a good feeling of what their top 10 industries are,” said Mosehauer. “If there’s a lot of student interest in a certain area, but little or no recruiting going on there, we look to close that gap.”