Even in the down economy, this spring’s graduates of Missouri University of Science and Technology continue to draw the attention of prospective employers. But rather than getting half a dozen offers from competing Fortune 500 companies, students are now looking at fewer offers, mostly from smaller firms or startups.
Missouri S&T officials say graduates are enjoying relative success during the first down job market in years. Dr. Lea-Ann Morton, director of the campus’s Career Opportunities Center, points out that for the first time in the campus’s 138-year history, two graduates will enter the work force with six-figure starting salaries.
But Morton and other officials caution that the success is indeed relative.
“Our students are still getting job offers, but not as many as they might have gotten in the past,” says Edna Grover-Bisker, assistant director of the Career Opportunities Center. “One or two years ago, they may have gotten five or six job offers. Now, they’re getting one or two offers.”
One reason for the continued demand has to do with the nature of this campus of 6,200 students, where more than 80 percent of the students major in engineering, science or similar fields. Typically, these fields remain stable during recessionary times.
That seems to be the case this year, says Grover-Bisker. But some fields, such as civil engineering, are seeing a slight decrease in the number of job offers.
“The consulting firms aren’t hiring as much as they have in the past,” Grover-Bisker says. “But that doesn’t really affect us much. We always have a higher demand for civil engineers than we have graduates anyway.”
With tighter corporate travel budgets, fewer companies visited campus this year than in recent years. The number of companies visiting the campus to conduct interviews dropped by 20 percent from the 2007-2008 academic year. “Employers didn’t have as many job openings this year, and because of the recession, many companies cut travel, so fewer companies came to campus,” says Grover-Bisker.
While the number of companies attending Missouri S&T’s Spring Career Fair in February was down, 17 new companies attended the event, Morton points out.
Meanwhile, the number of job postings submitted to the Career Opportunities Center increased by 20 percent over last year.
Many high-profile Fortune 500 companies that usually hire S&T graduates were busy laying off employees or freezing positions, but smaller firms picked up the slack, Grover-Bisker says.
“We’re seeing growth with smaller companies and startups,” she says. “A lot of the larger, more traditional employers are not hiring. It’s the smaller companies that may hire one or two that are coming through.”
Missouri S&T has built a strong reputation as a resource for talented new employees, Morton says, and companies have been willing to pay top dollar for S&T graduates. Last year, PayScale Inc. ranked Missouri S&T tops among Midwestern universities in terms of starting salaries, with students earning an average of $57,100 straight out of college.
The fact that this year two students – both engineering graduates – received six-figure starting salaries indicates that companies are still willing to pay for talent, but Morton points out that most graduates will earn salaries closer to the average reported in PayScale.