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Job outlook bright for NMSU spring graduates

More job opportunities and higher pay are greeting college graduates this spring, including the approximately 1,900 students who are completing bachelor's or graduate degrees at New Mexico State University. NMSU students in fields as diverse as nursing, engineering, education and liberal arts have been heavily recruited, placement officials said.


Nationally, according to an annual job outlook survey, employers expect to hire 14.5 percent more graduates this year than last year. NMSU has seen an increase of more than 20 percent in the number of companies and government agencies recruiting graduates.

"The opportunities available for our graduates are just amazing," said Steve Castillo, head of electrical and computer engineering at NMSU. "The demand is high for engineers in all areas and salaries are skyrocketing."

He said electrical engineers with bachelor's degrees are starting in the $50,000 range, those with master's degrees are starting from $65-70,000 and those with doctorates are looking at potential salaries in six figures.

Bahram Nassersharif, head of mechanical engineering, said graduates in his department are earning salaries about 10 percent higher than the national average. Most are averaging around $45,000, with a high offer of $58,000. "That shows employers value our students," he said.

Many employers consider NMSU a key institution for recruiting, said Judy Shaffner of NMSU's placement and career services. Employers recruiting at NMSU include Boeing, the CIA, IBM, MCI Worldcom, Motorola, Murphy Family Farms, Norwest Financial and Raytheon.

Although electrical engineers were the most sought-after group on campus for the third year in a row, graduates in other areas also were recruited. The Educator's Job Fair held in April broke previous attendance records with 126 public schools participating.

"The job market for education graduates is healthy," said Michael Morehead, interim dean of education, "maybe as healthy as it's been in the last 10 years."

He has seen education graduates recruited from all over the nation, but primarily from the Midwest to the West. Some students were offered contracts and even signing bonuses during the career fair. "By the middle of July the majority of our applicants will find employment," he said.

Monte Giles, who was to receive his bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering at NMSU's commencement May 13, has had a job lined up since December as a technical applications engineer at Intel.

He will participate in Intel's rotation program, in which he will work in a different area within the company every six months for the first two and a half years. "It's a leadership development program that gives you the opportunity to learn the business all around and get a wide range of knowledge," Giles said. "After the rotation I can pick the focus I want to work in."

Only 30 people were hired for the program this year, he said.

In Las Cruces, NMSU's hometown, the demand for graduates also is high. Sam Romero said he hopes NMSU graduates more students because he has plenty of work for them. "We need more engineers, physicists and computer scientists," he said.

Romero works for Harris Corp., a local engineering firm focusing on military applications. He said he can see the engineering shortage, and he doesn't anticipate it decreasing in the next few years. "The biggest problem we have is keeping them in the area," he said.

Nassersharif said 70 percent of NMSU's mechanical engineers remain in New Mexico. The figure rises to about 90 percent when you include Arizona, California and Texas, he said.

Nursing graduates also are heavily recruited in the region, said Judith Karshmer, head of NMSU's nursing program. "It's hard to tell the job market by only looking at the local community," she said. "Our biggest recruiters are in the region, but we've also seen people from the Mayo Clinic, Army, Navy and Air Force."

Karshmer said this shortage, as opposed to some others she's seen in the past, is more a function of fewer graduates of programs across the country. "It may not be resolved as quickly as they have been in the past."

Even liberal arts graduates are seeing good job opportunities. They are often considered for management training, said Steve Salway, director of placement and career services at NMSU. "We saw a large surge of government agencies recruiting our students this year," he said. "Many of those positions may be filled by liberal arts graduates."

Rachel Kendall
May 12, 2000