Merced grads grab alternatives

MERCED -- The Economic Policy Institute released a report in May stating that the 2010 college and high school graduating classes were entering the worst job market since 1983, and possibly the worst since the end of World War II.

But University of California at Merced officials said a majority of this year's graduates sidestepped the bleak national job market by applying to graduate schools, post-baccalaureate programs and service-oriented jobs such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America.

An unofficial survey by career service officials at UC Merced said a majority of its graduates are applying to graduate schools. The reason: Many had planned on embarking in allied health careers, such as medicine, dentistry or nursing, said Kelly Patterson, associate director of career services for UC Merced.

The school doesn't have official statistics on the percentage of 2010 graduates who are employed or who plan to attend graduate programs, said Lezly Juergensen, career counselor in UC Merced Career Services.

The university recently sent a survey to the Class of 2010 asking graduates about their post-graduation plans, but those results won't be tabulated until fall, Juergensen said.

The university hasn't analyzed the results from last year's class survey, which was the first class to attend UC Merced for four years, she added.

The school doesn't have the data to show the exact number of students who are getting jobs after graduation, but Patterson said the university plans to track this data.

"It's about getting the alumni to fill out questionnaires so we can say there's a trend," she said.

According to the EPI, the average unemployment rate in the past 12 months for college graduates under 25 was 9 percent. In 2007, it was 5.4 percent.

These numbers can be misleading because they don't take into account whether the job the graduate has matches his skill level. For instance, the jobs that students could be getting out of college may not require a college degree.

Patterson said she hasn't noticed much of a difference between this year's job market and that of 2008 when unemployment levels began to rise.

What she did notice this year was that more companies attended the school's annual job fair in February than in previous years.

This year, 41 employers set up booths at the fair compared with 33 companies last year.

Part of the increase has to do with the fact that more students are graduating from UC Merced, so the school's name is becoming more recognizable to prospective employers, Patterson said.

The school added the State Department and Chevron to its list of prospective employers, Patterson said.

Students can maximize their chances of obtaining a job after college by meeting with a college counselor and going through a career assessment, then applying for an internship, Patterson said.

"If they go through those steps, it's a lot less stressful," she said.

The majority of UC Merced graduates are interested in pursuing careers in finance,engineering, green technologies or with nonprofit organizations.