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Indiana college students seek degrees that offer jobs

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Fewer college students are studying to become teachers or skilled manufacturers.

Instead, they're selecting majors that will lead straight to a job after graduation and not into a field riddled with layoffs and unemployment, local college leaders said.

More students are choosing careers in the medical, legal and technology fields, often being recruited by companies before they pass their final exams and graduate, said Scott Neal, Franklin campus director for Ivy Tech Community College.

The number of students on track to become nurses or legal assistants has more than doubled from last fall to this semester, prompting the college to expand those programs, he said.

Students who want to stay in education or technical fields should be prepared to relocate for a job or learn additional skills to set them apart from other job-seekers, leaders said.

Ivy Tech's manufacturing program still is growing, but now students are learning about new techniques such as operating robotics on an assembly line to keep their skills relevant to today's employers, said Kathleen Lee, interim chancellor of Ivy Tech Central Indiana.

Many of the students who enroll at Ivy Tech recently have lost their jobs or have a job with little potential for moving up, she said.

"That's the traditional story we hear, especially with companies doing big layoffs," Lee said. "Many of them will say, 'Tell me what's the most stable.'"

Because of a weak economy, students are considering a specific job path when they choose a major, especially those who want to become teachers, said Kirk Bixler, Franklin College assistant dean of students and director of career services.

Recent graduates specializing in elementary education, social studies and physical education are having a difficult time finding a job, he said.

In the past year, many recent graduates could find jobs as teacher aides before moving up to a full-time teaching position, Bixler said.

"This year those positions aren't even there," he said. "A lot of positions are being filled by out-of-work teachers."

At least 40 percent of this year's graduates have jobs, according to surveys the students filled out at graduation or this summer, Bixler said. The college will continue contacting students to see how many have jobs six months after they graduate, he said.

Seventy-six percent of spring 2009 graduates found full-time jobs within six months of graduating, and another 14 percent went to graduate or professional school.

Only about 2 percent of last year's graduates were unemployed and actively seeking a job six months after graduating, Bixler said.

But unlike last year's students, this spring's graduates will need to look farther from home to get a job, he said. Teaching jobs are available in Texas and North Carolina, and new teachers need to leave their comfort zones to snag a job, Bixler said.

Although the economy has affected nearly all sectors, students with degrees in business and the sciences have been able to find jobs more easily, especially in Indianapolis, he said.

People from Indianapolis hospitals and health care facilities are visiting Ivy Tech nursing classes to recruit students before the semester is over, Neal said.

Companies such as Cummins Inc. also come to Ivy Tech in Columbus in search of students specializing in manufacturing, director of career services Neil Bagadiong said.

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