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Between 80 and 90 percent of all jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher are now advertised online—and the second-largest category of those jobs encompasses science, technology, engineering, and mathematics positions.

A new report reveals that the vast majority of job openings for college graduates today are being posted online—on job boards, yes, but also on traditional and social media. And a significant number of them are for engineers.

May 6, 2014—As the national economy has slowly clawed its way back from the Great Recession, many have wondered where the jobs are, especially the high-skill, high-wage jobs for college graduates. A new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce may have the answer: they’re online.

A report titled “The Online College Labor Market” reveals that 80 to 90 percent of all job openings for workers with a bachelor’s of arts (B.A.) degree or higher are now posted online. And science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) job ads are the second-most frequently posted, accounting for 28 percent of online job ads for those with a B.A. or above. Only managerial/professional office workers, at 33 percent, ranked higher in the report’s findings. And this is true despite the fact that only 11 percent of those who hold a bachelor’s degree or above are currently employed in STEM fields, indicating anticipated growth in STEM fields.

Georgetown researchers Anthony P. Carnevale, Ph.D., Tamara Jayasundera, Ph.D., and Dmitri Repnikov analyzed data provided by Boston-based Burning Glass Technologies, which collected data from job websites, such traditional media websites as newspapers and magazines, and such social media as LinkedIn and Facebook. Burning Glass “scraped data” from as many sources as possible during the second quarter of 2013, says Jayasundera, who is an assistant research professor at Georgetown and a coauthor of the report. The firm then used sophisticated software to eliminate duplicates and group the online ads by market sector as well as by the types of degrees that employers stated they were looking for.

Of the 3.7 million job openings that the U.S economy registered per month at the time of the data collection, 2.7 million were posted online, the report states. That accounts for roughly 73 percent of all job ads. But when considering only those ads that stated that a BA or higher was required, the percentage jumped considerably. “For college graduates, who are more likely to search for jobs on the Internet,” the report states, “online jobs ads data can be a viable tool for connecting real people with real jobs in real time.”

Jayasundera says the results prove that employers are seeking college graduates who are technologically sophisticated, regardless of the type of job they are seeking. “College graduates are more likely to search online,” she says. “They have access to personal computers, they have their resumes in Word, they have access to their email. They have it all set up.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, only about one-third of those jobs posted online ask for a high school degree or do not require any degree. “In some industries, like construction or retail or restaurants, you don’t get that many job openings coming up online,” she says. Online ads are “not their style of advertising” and aren’t as likely to net them the workforce they are seeking, she says. For restaurants and retailers, for example, a sign on the door or word-of-mouth may be a better bet, Jayasundera says.

Among all of the jobs for college grads that are posted online, three-quarters require a minimum of a B.A., 20 percent ask for a master’s degree or above, and just 5 percent require a Ph.D., the research found. But Jayasundera points out that in such fields as STEM, in which higher degrees often translate into better qualifications and higher salaries, it is possible that employers may advertise for a BA or greater and end up hiring those with higher degrees. “What is stated in a job ad is not necessarily what they end up hiring,” she says. And 10 years of experience can often be “traded off” for a higher degree, she points out.

Within the STEM category, online jobs for computer and mathematical sciences occupations ranked the highest, accounting for 73 percent of the online STEM ads. Software developers are most in demand. Architecture and engineering (A&E), a combined category, ranks next, at 19 percent, and the bulk of those were for engineers. The remainder of the STEM category was made up of job ads for those in the life and physical sciences.

The economic recovery has been “especially slow” for architects and engineers, Jayasundera says, “but civil engineers are coming back and construction is slowly coming back.” Indeed, the report states that the A&E sector dropped 65,000 jobs during the recession—which the report specifies as December 2007 through January 2010—but is now roaring back with 208,000 new jobs for college-educated workers from the end of the recession through June 2013.

And almost all of those new A&E jobs are for engineers: civil, electrical, and mechanical engineers make up 50 percent of that growth, the report states. Unsurprisingly, most of the engineering job listings ask for workers with a B.A. or above. Mechanical and electrical engineers are most in demand, but civil engineers come in third within the category, at 15 percent.

The salaries offered for architecture and engineering jobs are high as well; the mean salary for civil engineers in the jobs captured in this study is $83,000. And that salary is the same for environmental engineers, who are being sought by just three percent of those A&E ads online for college graduates. These salaries fall within the midpoint of the A&E category; materials engineers garner the highest mean wage, at $101,000, and chemical engineers rank second, at $99,000. Architects, excluding landscape architects and naval architects, had the lowest mean salary, at $79,000.

Jayasundera says the upshot of the report is that good jobs are available, they are being posted online, and job seekers need to be there to capitalize on them. (For online job ads for civil engineers, see ASCE’s Career Connections.) “It’s easy to find job vacancies for college graduates now, but that means you need to make sure you stand out,” she says. Job-seekers must be aware that with so many more responses coming in from online sources, prescreening of candidates is being delegated to software that searches for key words. “There is prescreening even before the employer sees your resume,” she says. Candidates therefore “have to make sure they have some of those key words.

“You might have to spend some time looking at the job description and understanding what those key skills are [that] employers are keen on getting,” she explains. “If you think you have it but you are not hearing back, you may need to tweak your resume a bit so the software that does the prescreening picks up those key words.”

While employers still like to have personal references in hand—and networking in real time still matters—today’s engineering job seekers must be sure they have a strong online profile. “Make yourself stand out,” Jayasundera says. “If you don’t have a presence online, you are being left out.”


 

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