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Congratulations, class of 2010 college graduates! Are you hired yet?

In a still-tight job market, college graduates have their sights set on more education and opportunities abroad. Demand is up for statistics, finance, and accounting majors.

By Staff writer / May 14, 2010

Graduating students listened to President Obama give the commencement address at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, May 1.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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About 1.65 million students in the United States will be tossing mortarboards to celebrate earning a bachelor’s degree this commencement season. Here’s a glimpse into the big transition they’re making:

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How is the job market for new college graduates?

It’s holding steady or showing slight improvement compared with last year. But the job market was particularly dismal then, so much of the class of 2010 will probably be joining friends from ’09 in the hunt for work.

Employers surveyed last fall planned to hire an average of 26.2 graduates this spring, compared with 26.8 in 2009, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) at Michigan State University. In a March survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found a 5.3 percent uptick in expected hiring, the first since October 2008.

The picture may improve in coming months, says CERI director Philip Gardner. “It’s been a long year for these seniors,” he says. “Some of them are discouraged, and they bailed out quickly to graduate school.... [But] if they have a strategy to look for work ... there are going to be jobs opening up now through the summer.”

Which students have the job-hunting edge?

If you can crunch numbers, you’re probably in good shape: Opportunities for statistics majors are up 11 percent this year, according to CERI. Starting salaries for finance and accounting majors are up slightly, NACE reports. As in recent years, demand is strong for people with degrees in nursing and environmental science.

But employers know that some of the hottest talent can be found in a variety of majors. Many look for graduates who contribute technical or analytical skills to “e-commerce” or who show an entrepreneurial mind-set. “If you’re risk-taking ... adaptable ... and you can communicate [in a diverse workplace], it’s going to go a long way,” Mr. Gardner says.

Studying abroad or being able to speak a foreign language can help, too, says Allan Goodman of the Institute of International Education, which estimates that at least 11 percent of the class of 2010 has studied abroad.

What’s the debt load for recent graduates?

Sixty-five percent of bachelor’s degree recipients in 2007-08 graduated with education debt – and half of those students owed at least $20,000, according to the College Board’s latest figures.

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