When Kelsey Rowlson graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in communications, she thought her job search might take a while.
Instead, she lined up a job as the event and program coordinator at the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce in July 2014, a month after graduation.
“I have friends who looked for similar jobs for over a year,” Rowlson said. “I still feel very lucky and very blessed to have found a job right out of college.”
Employment numbers for recent Western graduates are slowly bouncing back after the recession. Western’s most recent graduate survey found that more 2013-2014 graduates found work within six months of graduating and there was a 7 percent jump in the number of graduates who, like Rowlson, found work in the field they studied.
Western’s Career Services Center conducts the annual survey of graduates who received bachelor’s degree, master’s degrees, and teaching certificates. This year, 55 percent of graduates responded to the survey, which the center conducts by mail and email.
Eighty-three percent of bachelor’s degree recipients reported finding full- or part-time employment within six months of graduating, which is up 1 percent from the 2012-2013 survey. Field-related employment increased to 60 percent from last year’s 53 percent.
In order, the top employers of recent bachelor’s degree graduates are AmeriCorps, Boeing, Amazon, Nordstrom, Costco, Faithlife, Mount Vernon School District, Target and Zulily.
Jobs at AmeriCorps include stipend positions that can compensate less than minimum wage. AmeriCorps has been near the top of the list before, but this is the first time in recent years that the government program has been the top employer of recent Western bachelor’s degree graduates.
The newest crop of bachelor’s degree recipients reported a 5 percent higher average starting salary than previous years’ graduates. The average starting salary went from $37,097 in the previous study to $39,049 for 2013-2014 graduates. In total, 285 graduates reported salary information out of 1,725 total respondents. During the 2013-2014 academic year, 3,143 graduated with bachelor’s degrees.
Graduates with computer science degrees reported making the most money, with an average annual salary of $68,204. Theatre arts graduates made the least money, averaging $14,040, but only two theatre arts graduates from 2013-2014 reported salary information to the survey.
Getting a teaching certificate makes graduates more likely to find work. Overall employment for teaching certificate recipients improved from 94 percent to 96 percent this year. More than three-quarters of those are employed as teachers in Washington.
Out of the surveyed master’s degree graduates, 93 percent had jobs within six months of graduation, up from 84 percent in the previous survey.
Graduates with internship experience found employment sooner and reported an average starting salary 8 percent higher than students without internship experience.
The number of graduates who continued their education rose to 11.2 percent, up from the previous year’s result of 10.5 percent. Graduates who studied chemistry, communication sciences and disorders, physics and mathematics were most likely to register for more school.
Oliver Lazenby, associate editor of The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or firstname.lastname@example.org.