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As economy improves, Oklahoma college graduates still face challenges finding work

When Jessica Hisey graduated from Oklahoma City University three years ago with a degree in entertainment business, she had big ideas about where her career might take her. Today, she's happy to have a job at all.
by Silas Allen Published: April 29, 2012
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When Jessica Hisey graduated from Oklahoma City University three years ago with a degree in entertainment business, she had big ideas about where her career might take her.

Today, she's happy to have a job at all.

When she was in school, Hisey envisioned a career doing marketing and fundraising for nonprofit organizations. The sense of purpose such groups have attracted her, she said.

“I've been working with nonprofits my entire life. It's all I know,” she said. “I really like working for an organization that has a really strong mission.”

When she graduated from OCU in May 2009, she entered “a pretty dreadful job market,” she said. She thought she had a strong resume, she said, but she seemed to be getting about five or six responses for every 100 copies she sent out.

It took Hisey six months to find her first job, at The Nonprofit Resource Center in Muskogee. She went on to work in fundraising at Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum — a job she lost in October.

“I kind of feel like I got in over my head,” she said.

Since then, Hisey has been working a series of retail jobs while she looked for something more permanent. Earlier this month, she landed a job doing customer service for a Tulsa sign company. Although she's pleased to have the job, it still doesn't line up with her career goals. She recognizes, though, that the working world is more difficult than she expected.

“I think things have been put in perspective considerably,” she said.

Hisey isn't alone. An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies shows one in two recent college graduates are either jobless or underemployed.

According to the analysis, strong demand exists in science, education and health fields. But demand lags for graduates with degrees in arts and humanities, and median wages for those with bachelor's degrees are down from 2000.

Another study, released in January, suggests job prospects for recent graduates vary drastically by major. The study, “Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal,” was conducted by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

According to the study, majors that are linked closely to occupations tend to have better employment prospects after graduation. Electrical engineering majors, for example, had a 7.3 percent unemployment rate, while the rate for philosophy and religious studies majors was 10.8 percent.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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