published Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Job outlook for 2014 college grads more positive

Area Graduations

Bryan College -- Today

Chattanooga State Community College -- Today

Covenant College -- Today

Dalton State Community College -- May 9

Lee University -- May 9 and today

Northwest Georgia Technical College -- May 8

Southern Adventist University -- May 4

Tennessee Wesleyan University -- May 3

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga -- May 3

Here's a little good news for those picking up their college diplomas this month.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that U.S. companies intend to hire 8.6 percent more fresh college graduates than they did last year, when the same study showed that U.S. companies intended to increase fresh grad hiring by only 2.1 percent.

Targeted are bachelor's degree-wielding candidates in business, engineering and computer sciences. Also, recent master's degree candidates are in the hunt.

"We've seen more job postings, that's for sure," said Jean Dake, director of the Career and Student Employment Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, on Friday. "I'm assuming businesses have been holding back a little bit because of the economy."

Unemployment fell last month to the lowest level in nearly six years. The U.S. jobless rate, which dipped to 6.3 percent in April, was 7.5 percent a year ago. Unemployment over the past year dropped from 8.3 percent a year ago to 6.7 percent last month and fell in Georgia from 8.4 percent a year ago to 7 percent last month.

While college grads this month emerge into the healthiest job scenes since early 2009, some point out that it's not all about getting a degree and jumping into life with a new company.

Billy Tallent, 36, is a native of the area who is receiving an associate's degree in information technology today from Chattanooga State Community College.

"I never even thought about going back to school," he said. "Now here I am."

Tallent said when he graduated from McMinn County High School in 1996, "you were very special if you got to go to college."

But nearly two decades later, he will be the first in his family to receive a college degree -- and he has no intentions of splitting from I I Stanley Co., where Volkswagen headlights and taillights are made.

Starting over at the bottom, even with an IT degree, would probably equal a pay cut, he said.

So instead, he's scouting out ways to use his new education where he is.

"You don't necessarily have to move up. You can move laterally," he said.

And he hasn't ruled out the possibility of going on to attain a bachelor's degree.

Statistics say that might not be a bad idea.

BLS numbers state the median weekly wage in 2013 for an individual wielding an associate's degree was $777. And for bachelor's degree holders, it was $1,108.

The highest-paid workers were those with professional degrees, like doctors, lawyers, engineers and therapists. They earned an average $1,714 weekly. Non-medical doctoral degree holders averaged $1,623 a week.

But regardless the numbers and money, Tallent said earning his degree as positively changed him.

"My level of confidence has doubled," he said.

That's why he encourages others to go for the college degree -- even if it means dropping to a quarter-time load at school, working full-time and supporting a wife and two kids, like he's done.

"People shouldn't lose a year's sleep trying to figure out what they're going to go to school for," he said. "It doesn't matter which degree you have. It matters that you have a degree."

And again, the numbers are there: non-degree workers with some college education made an average $727 weekly last year, according to the BLS.

And those with a high school diploma made about $651.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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