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UNLV grads move into ‘great market’

Nicole Rasmussen and her friends spelled out “teachers for hire” atop their graduation caps Saturday, but they weren’t looking for work.

Actually, Rasmussen and her friends were making light of the fact that they already had jobs.

As a graduate of UNLV’s College of Education, Rasmussen had the best chance among her peers of finding a job in her field, thanks to a local teacher shortage and willingness on the part of the Clark County School District to snap up UNLV students.

Eighty-five percent of UNLV education graduates find jobs in their field within three months, the highest rate among the university’s graduates, according to UNLV Career Services.

“It’s a great market to be a UNLV graduate in right now, and it’s going to continue that way,” said Eileen McGarry, executive director of UNLV Career Services, which brings employers to campus and provides job advice and assistance to students and alumni.

But Las Vegas’ job market is better for some graduates than others.

Career Services surveys students three months after they graduate to find out how they’re faring and what kind of jobs they’ve accepted.

Of the latest results, from the graduating classes of August 2005, December 2005 and May 2006, 66 percent of all students who were employed three months after graduating found themselves in a field related to their major.

Seventy-six percent of students found themselves employed in any sort of job, and 78 percent of those were employed full time.

Career Services officials say those figures include students who are actively pursuing graduate school, are relocating or are taking time off.

But Las Vegas’ economy, which continues to produce good-paying unskilled work in the service sector, poses unique challenges for graduates.

“The thing about UNLV students is, the job market really isn’t that big of a deal for them,” said Bradley Wimmer, an associate professor of economics at UNLV. “Many of them are already working full time. Many of them are already working in the casinos.”

Career Services says 86 percent of students work during college, and about half of those work full time.

Wimmer said he knows of students working full time at unskilled jobs who had to take a pay cut after they graduated to work in a field within their major.

“It’s very unique to Las Vegas,” Wimmer said.

UNLV associate professor of economics Jeffrey Waddoups said many graduates face such situations.

“A lot of them, after they get out with their degree, find out that in order to work in their field, they have to take a pay cut,” Waddoups said. “Now, it’s very difficult to take a pay cut, for obvious reasons. I try to impress on them that they might be taking a pay cut earlier on, but later on they’ll be on a path where they will be making higher wages.”

One graduate of the College of Business said in the survey that working as a dealer at the Hard Rock Hotel brought in $68,000 per year. Another said being a valet for MGM Mirage brought in $40,000 per year.

The average salary for a graduate of the College of Business during the survey period was $46,066, higher than that for all other graduates but those from the College of Engineering.

Although Nevada, and Las Vegas in particular, remains a place where a person without a college degree can make a decent living, that trend slowly is slipping away, according to higher education officials.

In 1960, Nevada had a per capita personal income of 127 percent of the national average, according to the Nevada System of Higher Education.

In 2004, that ratio was 103 percent of the national average.

A student’s chance of finding a job in a chosen field varies wildly, according to last year’s survey results.

Graduates of fields in high demand, such as teaching and nursing, have their pick of jobs.

“They’re almost immediately employed,” McGarry said.

John Hathaway, who graduated with an education degree Saturday, said he didn’t have a job lined up yet, but he added that he wasn’t worried about it.

“They’re hiring (about) 3,000 teachers here,” he said. “Everybody will get a job.”

On the other hand, those who earned degrees in fields in less demand were considerably worse off.

Students who graduated from the College of Liberal Arts, which includes the fields of psychology, political science, sociology and history, fared the worst in the job market last year.

An abysmal 37 percent of those graduates who were employed three months after graduation were working in their field of interest, and only 66 percent of those with jobs had full-time employment.

“It’s often that students in those programs don’t always have a career focus when they graduate,” McGarry said.

But those figures also might have been skewed by the proportion of liberal arts students going on to pursue graduate studies, 37 percent, second only to graduates of the College of Sciences.

More employers than ever have been interested in hiring UNLV graduates, McGarry said. Career Services has posted more than 9,000 help-wanted ads by employers since July 1.

But despite those ads, the future is still uncertain for some graduates.

Dave Ahern, a graduate in the University Studies program at UNLV with an emphasis in political science and physical education, said he didn’t have a job lined up, although he admitted that his unusual combination of interests might make his goal of working for the U.S. State Department difficult to achieve.

“I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow,” he said.


UNLV Career Services surveys students three months after they graduate from the university. Below, the results from students who graduated in August 2005, December 2005 and May 2006.

Currently employed after three months:

College of Hotel Administration 84%

College of Education 82%

College of Business 75%

College of Liberal Arts 75%

College of Urban Affairs 72%

College of Fine Arts 71%

College of Sciences 71%

College of Health Sciences 70%

College of Engineering 65%

Percentage of those jobs that are career-related:

College of Education 85%

College of Sciences 83%

College of Hotel Administration 80%

College of Engineering 78%

College of Health Sciences 71%

College of Business 68%

College of Fine Arts 62%

College of Urban Affairs 49%

College of Liberal Arts 37%

Average salary offer:

College of Engineering $46,105

College of Business $46,066

College of Health Sciences $43,772

College of Sciences $42,770

College of Hotel Administration $37,586

College of Education $36,611

College of Urban Affairs $33,757

College of Liberal Arts $33,701

College of Fine Arts $33,364

Source: UNLV Career Services

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