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Careers By Degrees: Entry-Level Job Prospects Guide College Choices

Careers By Degrees: Entry-Level Job Prospects Guide College Choices

The Buffalo News

September 28, 2009

Sep. 28—Being a college student can be scary. As students stand face to face with their futures, much time is spent worrying, “Am I making the right decisions? What will become of me?”

With a jobless recovery looming on the horizon, there is a lot of gloom in the halls of higher education.

“Students are now beginning to panic,” said Fran Schmidt, director of the career services center at D’Youville College.

But panic doesn’t translate into inaction. Schmidt said students are responding to that fear in healthy ways, seeming more determined than ever to find and secure their first entry-level jobs.

As an antidote to their mounting anxieties, more college students than ever before are turning to practical career paths.

“Security has always been part of the equation, but now it’s of paramount concern,” said Laurence Shatkin, author of the book “50 Best College Majors for a Secure Future.” “Students are considering the rising cost of education and want to be sure they will be able to pay their student loans. They’re looking for the best payoff in economic terms.”

In his book, Shatkin compiled lists of the most secure college preparation paths, taking into account the income potential, number of annual job openings and projected job growth of each one.

As usual, health care careers rate highly, and students are paying attention.

At D’Youville, nursing, physician assisting and physical therapy programs are all filled, without a seat to spare. The college is constructing a new building to take on majors in pharmacy, another practical career in high demand.

Though more students are opting for practical courses of study, both Shatkin and Schmidt warned that a degree program also needs to be interesting. Schmidt said she discourages students from neglecting what they love in favor of a sure-shot career path.

“You want to make sure it’s a good fit,” said Schmidt. “If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it will be very difficult to get through the program.”

Indeed, Shatkin said, forcing a square peg into a round hole can be disastrous.

“There are so many preferences people have that can’t be quantified in a list,” he said.

Some people want to dress up for work, some people want to use their hands, others want to work outdoors. The weight of those preferences shouldn’t be underestimated.

“We have people who come in and say they like to work with people, but then they say they want to be an accountant,” Schmidt said. “That’s just not going to work. A few years later and these people are miserable.”

He suggests students weigh practical options without focusing merely on earning potential or the likelihood of landing a job, but at what the student might enjoy doing with his or her life. How does the course work match up with the student’s skills and interests?

Once that’s settled, he warns students not to wait until halfway through their program of study to test drive the field with an internship. Instead, they should shadow someone in their field early on to make sure the work environment is right for them.d

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