While college graduation
is a cause for celebration among departing students, this years
job market may not be. Tougher economic times are taking a toll
on offers to the construction industrys newest job seekers,
but some are finding a civil engineering degree very marketable.
Some larger firms, such as Kellogg
Brown & Root, Houston, are cutting back on hiring. Dawn
McRea, a KBR human resources staffer, says the number of recent
graduates being hired now is "definitely lower than its
been." But she notes that "we have had some positions pop
up in the past couple months."
Job fairs on campus grew in importance this year as competition
for good jobs increased in a down economy.
Civil engineering appears to be
okay. "Its actually a good time to be a civil engineer,"
says Manuel Perez, director of career services at California
State Polytechnic University, Pomona. "Of all the engineering
disciplines, civil engineering is doing the best in opportunities
small private companies that are looking at rebuilding the
Nancy Evans, director of the Engineering
Career Assistance Center at the University of Texas, Austin,
says that of the schools December 2002 graduates, all
but one is now either working or planning to attend graduate
school. "Civil engineering is doing very well, its electrical
engineering and mechanical engineering that are struggling,"
Even with a shaky economy, engineering
grads are still likely to find employment within six months
of graduation. "Historically, architectural and civil [engineers]
get the highest number of offers," says Drexel University
research specialist Mark Palladino. While only 14% of the
Class of 2002 were still seeking jobs four months later, that
is higher than in two previous years. "For the class of 2003...its
probably going to be just as tough this year," he says.
"Overall civil engineering students
are doing better than students interested in other areas,"
says Thy Nguyen, assistant career services director for engineering
and sciences at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. "But
its still pretty tight, and the market is still down
from where it was a few years ago."
Michelle Fuller, a Drexel June
graduate, is one of the lucky ones who nailed a job offer
early. The civil-architectural engineering double major was
hired last Thanksgiving by Nave-Newell, a Cherry Hill, N.J.,
consulting engineering and planning firm. But with unemployment
on the rise, she admits that "people who have jobs are very
nervous theyre not going to have them down the road."
Some grads are heading for traditionally
lower-paying but more stable positions in the public sector.
"We used to have a lot get into consulting," says UTs
Evans. "That has dropped off. The Texas Dept. of Transportation
is now hiring a lot of graduates." But not all DOTs are so
inclined. "This year has been very challenging with the financial
situation," says Tisha Wong, recruitment analyst for the California
Dept. of Transportation, which is under a statewide hiring
freeze ordered by Gov. Gray Davis (D).
Perez says that more students are
looking at the federal government and even the military. "They
are looking at it as a temporary career until the economy
picks up, then coming back and working in private industry,"
Shirley Harrison, a college relations
representative for Bechtel Group Inc. in San Francisco, finds
that work experience is important when her firm hires college
graduates for civil, mechanical, electrical, and environmental
engineering. "We look for students who come out prepared with
at least one quality internship."
But more grads also are considering
graduate school. "The number of U.S. students applying is
twice what it has been in recent years," says Jim OConnor,
a UT professor of project management. "Interestingly, were
also getting inquiries from people in their 30s, 40s and even
in their early 50s."