Surprising degrees that lead to top jobs

Colleges pressed to connect education with employment after schooling finished.

About one-third of all college graduates are underemployed, according to a recent study, which has amplified the importance of finding courses of study that will lead to more job opportunities.

Coming out of the recession, more students and parents are asking how earning a degree will connect them with a career, said Jason Eckert, director of career services at the University of Dayton.

Eckert said choosing a field of study is a conversation he starts with students before they enter the university, and his office offers resources and advisors to help. The choice, he said, should reflect a combination of their “individual passion and the economy.”

“It can’t just be one or the other,” he said.

The stakes are high for college students. Along with the issue of underemployment, recent graduates typically leave school with $26,600 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Project on Student Debt.

We asked nine area public and private universities and community colleges to highlight their programs with high job-placement rates. Here are some programs in which local graduates are finding success:


What: Bachelor’s degree

Where: Miami University

Why: Every graduate was offered a job

Salary: Miami graduates earn an average starting salary of $66,000, and work in a variety of positions

Graduates of Miami’s paper science program are dealing with an uncommon dilemma: they have to choose between multiple job offers, even before they finish school. Each of the 11 graduates this year were offered jobs by companies across the country, although two decided instead to pursue master’s degree before entering the field.

“There’s a lot of competition for our graduates,” said Jonathan Kerr, executive director of the Miami University Paper Science and Engineering Foundation, which provides scholarships to students.

The program was created at Miami in 1957, and students can now earn a paper science concentration with a chemical engineering or engineering management degree. It is one of eight such programs in the country.

“Every paper company in the country goes to those eight schools and drains them of their graduates,” said professor Steven Keller.

Keller said the paper industry has suffered some image problems, including many people saying paper would no longer be needed because of new technologies. But the industry is still the 10th largest in the United States, he said.

In recent years, paper companies were left “scrambling” for qualified workers to fill spots vacated by retirees, Miami said. Between 2007 and 2012, one-fifth of the paper workforce in North America was set to retire, leaving 3,000 jobs openings a year, the university tells prospective students.


What: Bachelor’s degree

Where: Wright State University

Why: Every graduate has a job or is pursuing an advanced degree

Salary: Median pay is $41,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wright State University’s athletic training program has a 100 percent job placement rate for students who want to work right after graduation. Some students instead choose to pursue a more advanced degree before entering the job market or go onto medical school.

Bottom line, according to program director Tony Ortiz, is: said, “If they want a job in athletic training, we can get them a job.”

Ortiz attributes his program’s stellar record to a family-like network among athletic trainers, and the broad education that students uniquely get at Wright State.

During the program, students observe a surgery and meet with surgeons, take a cadaver anatomy class, learn about general medical conditions, experience emergency care including a day spent with Fairborn paramedics, perform clinical hours, work with Wright State athletes and complete an internship.

Ortiz said when he came to Wright State in 1980, there were about 12 athletic trainers working in the area. Today, there are as many as 400. The field continues to expand as more high schools hire athletic trainers, he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates growth will be “much faster than average,” at 30 percent between 2010 and 2020. About 5,500 jobs will be added nationwide. The median pay is $41,600.

Three students graduated in June and all have jobs, said Rebekah Bower, interim program director. Eight students graduated in July and are awaiting word on whether they passed the national certification exam. Typically, 14 to 16 students graduate in a class, Bower said.

Joseph Neel, who graduated in June 2012, was hired by the Kettering Sports Medicine Center. He said he chose the program because he has always had a “passion for helping others.”

“Athletic training has been a great career choice because I get to do all the things I love,” he said. “I get to help injured athletes return to playing sports and healthy athletes improve their athletic performance as well. Both of which are very rewarding.”


What: Associate of Applied Science

Where: Cincinnati State Technical and Community College

Why: Nationally, the employment of respiratory therapists will grow by about 28 percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary: Median pay is $54,280, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The respiratory care program at Cincinnati State produces about 25 graduates each year and yields an average job placement rate of 86 percent in the past three years, said Mike Chaney, program chair at Cincinnati State.

The five-semester program prepares students to become registered respiratory therapists, with careers typically beginning in a hospital setting. Other jobs can be found in home care, diagnostic laboratories, sleep labs and doctor’s offices.

“In the allied health professions, the education level is going up,” Chaney said. “There are jobs available but hospitals can be choosy about who they pick.”

Chaney said respiratory therapists are trained to work with patients in emergency or critical care settings to manage things such as bedside pulmonary care and life-support systems management.

The academic program allows students after their second semester to apply for a limited permit from the state to work as a student therapist. Chaney said clinical rotations beginning in the second semester are often an avenue for networking for future jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said respiratory therapy is a field that will grow faster than average, at 28 percent between 2010 and 2020. Chaney said experts do expect the field to grow partly because of the needs of the aging baby boomer generation.


What: Bachelor’s degree

Where: University of Dayton

Why: Highest starting salary of business school programs

Salary: UD graduates earn in the mid-$50,000, the university said

All businesses need to get their goods or services to customers. And people who major in operations and supply management help design and improve the way they do it.

The 11-year-old major at Dayton has about 40 graduates per year, and most go straight into the workforce, although some pursue a master’s degree in business administration, said professor Michael Gorman.

“If you’re the type of person who likes to think about problems and ways to do things better, then you’re probably going to like operations,” he said.

“It’s a very good degree path, but you do have to be someone who really loves complex problem solving,” said Sylvie Stewart, career advisor to UD’s business school. “Someone who is going to monitor processes and then have the ability to strategically think about how to improve them.”

Gorman said awareness of the major is a challenge in recruiting students. “We try to dispel this thought that operations is working on a factory floor, which it can be. But it’s much more than that,” he said.

“Because operations majors deal with such a fundamental part of a business, they’re likely to be the most valued employees,” he said.

Sean Holdmeyer, a 2013 graduate, said meeting professionals in the field and working with General Electric during his capstone course affirmed his decision to enter to field.

Holdmeyer was recently hired as an energy operations consulting associate with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“Operations is the foundation of business,” he said. “If you can’t operate effectively and efficiently, your business will fail or fall behind the times.”


What: Short-term technical certificate

Where: Sinclair Community College

Why: New program was created in response to industry request

Salary: Entry-level jobs starts at about $9.85 per hour in the area, the college said

The tourism industry knows what skills they are looking for in new hires. Now, Sinclair has a certificate program that trains students for those jobs.

The hospitality reception and service specialist short-term technical certificate can be earned with one course in eight weeks. It was launched this fall out of a meeting the college had with tourism leaders in Warren County. The area is expected to add jobs, including more than 500 when the new $175 million Miami Valley Gaming & Racing racino opens in December.

“It was created specifically for entry-level employment,” said Sinclair professor Derek Allen, who is department chair. “It encompasses mastering soft skills, such as etiquette and decorum, problem solving and industry knowledge.”

About 75 students are enrolled now. Allen said he expects most of them to get jobs, and he receives calls on almost a weekly basis from restaurants, lodges, convention centers and others who are looking for qualified employees.

“This is a starting block,” he said.

This spring, the course will be taught at Sinclair’s Courseview campus in Mason. The college expects to offer the training online starting in summer 2014, Allen said.


What: Associate degree or certificate

Where: Clark State Community College’s Beavercreek campus

Why: Relatively new degree, every graduate has a job

Salary: Median salary between $35,000 and $65,000, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Geospatial technology is a sometimes little-understood field, but one that is expected to grow.

Graduates from Clark State’s three-year-old geospatial technology program Community College, commonly known as GIS, can track diseases for public health, analyze zip codes to help major retailers choose where to locate stores or work with the military, said professor Aimee Belanger-Haas. Some students are even getting jobs before they finish the program.

Belanger-Haas said depending on where a graduate works, they can use their GIS skills in different ways. “You can apply it to whatever you’re interested in,” she said.

Students are trained in geographic information systems, remote sensing and global positioning systems. “It’s basically a way of understanding the where — where is something — in your data,” she said. A co-op is also required.

About 600,000 Americans work in the field today, and experts expect that number to rise to 850,000 by 2018, Belanger-Haas said. The demand in the Dayton area could grow significantly if Ohio lands a spot as one of six national test sites for drones.

The average salary is $35,000 to $65,000. Clark State also offers four certificates in the field, although Belanger-Haas said a degree is typically desired by employers.

Students do not need any background knowledge before entering the program, she said.

“I always compare learning geospatial technology to learn a new language,” she said. “We teach you everything.”

Each of the four students who have earned the degree since the program launched have a job in the area, she said. About 25 students are currently enrolled in the program.


What: Associate degree

Where: Kettering College

Why: Every graduate has a job within one year

Salary: Kettering graduates earn between $18 and $20 per hour, the school said

Respiratory therapy at Kettering College is a unique program that students can realistically begin with just a high school education background, said Nancy Colletti, program director.

While the region is overproducing nurses, according to the Dayton Development Coalition, just 12 to 18 students each year earn a respiratory therapy associate degree from Kettering. The area now has a balance between graduates of local respiratory therapy programs and job openings, Colletti said, so Kettering students are passing their licensure exam and finding work within 10 to 12 months of graduation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said respiratory therapy is a field that will grow faster than average, at 28 percent between 2010 and 2020. Colletti said experts do expect the field to grow partly because of the needs of the aging baby boomer generation and because of reforms to health care.

The academic program trains students to work with patients in emergency room settings and with people to manage conditions such as asthma. An associate degree is considered entry-level education, and Colletti said select hospitals are beginning to ask the employees earn bachelor’s degrees.


What: Bachelor’s degree

Where: Cedarville University and the International Center for Creativity in Columbus

Why: Every graduate has a job or is pursuing an advanced degree

Salary: Median annual salary is $58,230, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

So far, seven students have graduated from a new industrial and innovative design degree program created by Cedarville and the International Center for Creativity in Columbus. Six of them promptly entered the workforce, and one is pursuing a graduate degree, said Mark Weinstein, Cedarville’s spokesman.

The program is the first of its kind to be offered by a Christian university, and is “a great choice for a student that has a desire to utilize their creative talents in a practical way,” said Jim Stevenson, president of the ICC.

Students spend their first two years at Cedarville and complete their education at the ICC. They choose from four study tracks: consumer product design, transportation design, interior space design or architectural and exterior space design. Like all other Cedarville students, they must complete a Bible minor.


What: Bachelor’s degree

Where: Wittenberg University

Why: Field is growing faster than average

Salary: Median annual salary is $82,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wittenberg is a liberal arts school that exposes students to a broad curriculum to allow for flexibility in any field, but students in the geology program also learn the fundamentals in a hands-on way.

The need for geologists is growing across the nation. The industry was expected the add 7,100 between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That 21 percent growth is faster than the average field. Most new jobs are in management, scientific and technical consulting services, the bureau reports.

In 2012, four students graduated from Wittenberg’s program, and two entered graduate school. One is working in the gas industry in Ohio and one is working in Texas, said professor John Ritter. Nationwide, there were 3,200 graduates in 2012, according to the American Geosciences Institute.Three to eight students typically graduate in one year from Wittenberg.

“Right now there is a tremendous need. It comes not from one sector, but a lot of sectors,” Ritter said. That includes people to work with oil and gas, to study the impact of fracking, and examine water resources in the western states.

Ritter said incoming students do not always think of geology when choosing their major.

“Students who come out of high school don’t realize geology is a profession and a career,” he said. “They really see it as a preliminary science course.”

The median salary for geoscientists is $82,500, according to the bureau.


What: Bachelor’s degree

Where: Central State University

Why: Every graduate has a job

Salary: Median annual salary is $78,740 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Central State University’s environmental engineering program is unique, because it grew out of the school’s water resources management program.

“Because the degree is unique and very few people know , there are few takers. So the few who choose the program will have many opportunities,” said professor Krishna Kumar V. Nedunuri, who is also director of the International Center for Water Resources Management.

Central State began offering the environmental engineering degree in 2008, and students have seen great success with jobs so far, Nedunuri said. Typically, three to five students graduate per year, he said.

“There are opportunities now and they’re only going to grow in the future,” he said.

Nationally, the field is expected to add 11,300 jobs between 2010 and 2020, which is a 22 percent growth. That is faster than average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median pay is $78,740 per year, according to the bureau.