The hiring picture keeps getting better for college graduates. According to a new survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers are planning to hire 9.6% more graduates for their U.S. operations than they did from the class of 2014. That’s a one percent hike from the 8.6% gain a year ago and a significant jump from 2013, when employers said they would boost hiring by just 2.1% over the previous year.
A non-profit group in Bethlehem, PA, NACE links college placement offices with employers. It surveyed more than a thousand of its employer members from February 9 – March 23, 2015, and got responses from 162 companies in industries ranging from agriculture to energy to retail. Respondents included American Express, Exxon Mobil, Merck, Procter & Gamble and United Airlines.
NACE’s questionnaire asked employers to rate the academic disciplines they target for their college hires. At the top of the list: engineering degrees. Some 72% of companies said they want to hire students set to graduate in that discipline. Sixty eight percent are looking for business majors and 58% want computer science majors. At the bottom of the list: health sciences, education and agriculture. Employers are not too eager to hire humanities majors either. Only 11% of respondents said they would hire humanities students, just above the 10% who said they would bring on social sciences majors. Here is a chart showing employers’ hiring expectations by major:
The NACE survey also asked employers to rate the skills they most value in new hires. Companies want candidates who can think critically, solve problems, work in a team, maintain a professional demeanor and demonstrate a strong work ethic. Here is the ranking in order of importance:
Comparative literature or art history majors shouldn’t be discouraged by the list of preferred majors, says Dan Black, immediate past president of NACE’s board and leader of Americas recruiting for accounting and professional services giant EY, which is making 9,000 campus hires this spring, including 4,000 interns. He says that 90% of EY’s hires will be people getting business, accounting and computer science degrees, but 10%, or 900 people, will come from other disciplines. At a firm like EY, which employs an army of CPAs, there are clear reasons to hire accounting majors. Most states require that accounting grads have logged 150 college credit hours before they can be certified as a CPA, and would-be accountants also must pass a grueling, four-day exam that tests lots of technical knowledge. “Albert Einstein couldn’t be an accountant if he didn’t have the credits,” says Black. Most college degrees require just 120 credit hours.
That said, students who are passionate about the humanities or social sciences should pursue those interests, says Black. The list of preferred majors in the NACE survey reflects its respondents, large companies like DuPont, General Electric and KPMG. There are no nonprofits, arts organizations or publishers on the list.
To make themselves marketable post-graduation, students in non-technical majors should visit their schools’ career services offices starting freshman year for advice on how best to make themselves marketable within their major. They should also network, especially with graduates from their schools who are now working in their fields of interest. And they should keep their grades up, pursue internships as early as their freshman summer and participate in extra-curricular activities and volunteer work that would interest an employer, like the debate team, advertising club or a political campaign. At EY, Black says he also looks at mitigating factors for students who don’t have perfect grade point averages. “If you’re working 35 hours a week to pay your way through school, we understand if you don’t have a 3.8,” he says.
The great news for all grads is that the hiring picture is strong. “The college hiring market is fairly robust, mirroring the economy in general,” says Black. “I’m bullish on the college employment outlook.” Next fiscal year, EY will likely hire even more grads than this year, he adds.
This article was written by Susan Adams from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.