Despite job creation, starting salaries drop, study finds

This year’s graduating class will enter the workforce with slightly lower starting salaries, but more students should have jobs than those who graduated last spring, according to two surveys conducted last month by the National Association for Colleges and Employers.

The organization’s Job Outlook report showed an increase of a little more than 5 percent in expected hiring compared to the previous year. In the fall, the last time the survey was conducted, employers expected an almost 7 percent decrease in hiring, and last spring, the study found around a 21 percent decrease in hiring compared to 2008.

But despite employers taking more recent graduates, starting salaries have decreased by almost 2 percent nationally, the surveys showed. Marva Gumbs Jennings, executive director of the Career Center, however, cautioned that the drop is not too significant.

“It’s not like [salaries] are going back centuries,” she said, calling the job market a “mixed bag.”

The NACE Salary Survey shows the overall average salary offer to a bachelor’s degree candidate is $47,673, which is 1.7 percent lower than the average offer of $48,515 made to a class of 2009 bachelor’s degree candidate.

“Some industries have dropped a mere percentage point,” Gumbs Jennings said. “Others have taken a dip of a couple of percentage points, but a couple of percentage points is not so much.”

Gumbs Jennings said she expects GW graduates to follow the national trends.

The Career Center conducts a survey six months after graduation to get a stronger indication of where students are, Gumbs Jennings said. The results from 2009 were analyzed throughout the year by the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment, and of the 608 respondents, 62 percent were employed and 22 percent were in graduate or professional school.

NACE Director of Communications Mimi Collins noted that while the economy may be trending upward, the job market may still be catching up.

“The economy is starting to improve,” Collins said. “As a general rule, the job market lags behind. As the economy picks up, the labor market will start to improve.”

Collins said NACE does not speculate and would not indicate whether the increase in hiring would lead to an increase in salaries.

“However, it would not be unreasonable,” Collins said, “to see salaries increase as demands increase.”

NACE Employment Information Manager Andrea Koncz, who analyzes reports on job market trends for new graduates, said she thinks the current trends in the job market are a reflection of the economy.

“I am hoping by the end of the year, [salaries] are at least level with last year and that it will stop decreasing,” Koncz said, adding that the outlook for the job market is a lot more positive than it was last year.

Gumbs Jennings said she felt GW students have an advantage, as there are opportunities in the D.C. area that don’t exist on other campuses for graduates.

“There’s a lot to a GW degree and they need to be confident in it and use experience here as a follow-up and talk with employers,” Gumbs Jennings said.

She emphasized the need for graduates to utilize the skills and opportunities GW offers through the Career Center and work experiences to stay motivated, confident and energetic when applying for jobs.

“My biggest concern,” Gumbs Jennings said, “is the people saying it’s bad out there, that there’s not a lot of jobs and seniors taking it in and deciding they’re not going to try. That’s a big mistake.”

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