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4:30pm ET, 4/16



Careers to come

iconSpecialists at the University of Texas' Center for Research in Electronic Commerce have developed a series of what they call Internet Economy Indicators, in an attempt to gauge the viability of the new economy. Click here to check out the numbers coming from Austin.  

IT grads in play:
Primed, picky, patient

In this story:

Eye on the prize

Treading lightly

Biding their time


(CNN) -- "A lot of students -- at MIT, Harvard, Stanford -- are saying, 'I want to make six figures graduating from college.' They know they have the greatest skills and are the strongest candidates, so there's going to be a premium price for them. I don't think they're being unrealistic."

Many of us graduated from college just hoping to find jobs in our chosen fields. Any jobs. We'd pay our dues and if we were lucky, one day we might find that perfect career.

graphic Assume you're just graduating from a top school with a degree in database administration or software engineering. Having seen what the stock markets have done to the tech sector in recent months, how picky are you going to be in getting the job you want?

Not picky. The market is too soft. I take what I can get for now.
Medium picky. Techs have suffered lately but nobody's going to unplug their modems and revert to snail mail. I'm cautious but optimistic.
Way picky. Let 'em eat cake. The tech sector will rebound soon and with my training I'll rule the world now, the universe later.
View Results


Some of today's engineering students seem to think that day should be the one on which they're handed their diplomas.

"A lot of the students I've talked to aren't as satisfied with the companies that come to campus," says Jeff Daniel, CEO and founder of CollegeHire, a kind of high-tech talent agency that matches students and employers in Austin, Texas. "They're really trying to find their dream job."

If salary is a measure of job-dreaminess, then these students are an optimistic group. A survey by CollegeHire of 5,631 engineering students at 35 universities -- many majoring in computer science and computer engineering -- found more than 80 percent of respondents saying they expect to receive higher salaries than last year's graduates earned.

"The students who will be going into high-tech are the ones we surveyed," Daniel says. "They want to make a lot of money."


Eye on the prize

Last year, graduates of the same programs earned an average $47,000, Daniel says. More than half -- 51.6 percent -- of the students surveyed this year said they expect to make between $51,000 and $70,000 in their first jobs. Another 29.3 percent said they anticipate making $71,000 or more.

Engineering students at the California Institute of Technology and at Princeton University had the largest percentage of students expecting to earn $100,000 or more right out of school -- 14.0 and 10.1 percent, respectively -- compared to an overall average of 3.9 percent of students at the 35 universities represented in the survey.

graphic The Gallup Organization asked its survey respondents how much they thought the Internet may change our society by comparison to other innovations and advances. Have a look at the answers Gallup received.

Their optimism may be warranted. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers of nearly 500 companies found that they intend to make job offers this year to 68,700 new graduates. That's an increase of 13,000 over last year, or 23 percent. Technology degrees are among those most in demand, the survey found.

"I was just talking to a couple of companies out in California," Daniel says, "and their starting salary is $80,000, plus options, plus a signing bonus. That's for students coming out of an MIT or a Harvard. One of the reasons they have to do that is that's what the students have to make to live in some places. San Francisco, New York -- it's insane what it costs to live there."

But more than housing costs, supply and demand are driving big salaries for untested college grads with technology skills. About 400,000 information technology jobs went unfilled in 2000, and most analysts say they expect little change this year. Daniel mentions database administration and software engineering as two career fields with particularly sharp needs for good people.

This, despite the fact that December marked the seventh month in which job cuts at Internet companies increased over the previous month, according to international outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. But Daniel and other observers say that the expansion of old economy companies into new economy technologies will more than offset those job losses.


Treading lightly

While college seniors who graduate with computer engineering and computer science degrees say they expect to make more money than last year's graduates have, some say they're wary of working for a startup, according to the CollegeHire survey.

One in four students asked said he or she would prefer to work for a well-established company after graduation, compared to one in seven who said she or he would prefer a startup. Sixty percent of the respondents, however, said they'd be open to working at either.

"These kids usually have three or four offers and take six months to decide. They're waiting longer to see if something else comes around, or something else pays off. They're in a very powerful position right now. I don't see that changing."
— Jeff Daniel, CollegeHire

"I think there's still the allure of going to work for a hot sort of startup company, or a company that's medium-sized and going places," says Daniel, who spoke to students on 16 campuses this past fall. "There's a lot of students that don't want initially to be Employee No. 25,345."

The bigger trend, Daniel says, is that new graduates entering the IT job market are more interested in more base pay and less compensation in the form of stock options than in the past. "Stock options have moved down the list in importance to them."


Biding their time

With so much demand for graduates with tech-related degrees, a lot of students are taking their time in deciding where to go to work, Daniel says.

"Fewer students are accepting the job they worked for with their summer employer," he says. "It's sort of like, 'Been there, done that.' A lot of the bigger companies that rely on internship programs to fill their full-time hiring, I'd bet the percentages have been dropping of those who go from intern to full-time work."

graphic The University of Texas' Center for Research in Electronic Commerce's Internet Economy Indicators break the picture down into four major categories -- Internet infrastructure (hardware), applications (software), an "intermediary indicator" (companies based on the Web) and an Internet commerce indicator (companies making Web-based transactions. Have a look at the analysis produced by this research.

Students with IT skills also are relying less on traditional means of finding a job, such as career centers and job fairs, Daniel says. "I tell them you really have to use your network. I tell them to use their alumni contacts a lot. Talk to their TAs (teaching assistants) from last year -- where are they working? Employee internal referrals are the No. 1 way companies hire people.

"A lot of times you hear them talk about their 'safe' offers. 'I'm going to go there if worse comes to worst.' I think they really look at their education and they're saying, 'I worked hard for four years and I'm not going to take just what's in front of me.' These kids usually have three or four offers and take six months to decide. They're waiting longer to see if something else comes around, or something else pays off.

"They're in a very powerful position right now. I don't see that changing."



Political dividends for high-tech Bush backers
January 10, 2001
IT workers still rule
December 26, 2000
Employers harvest the dot-com discontent
November 1, 2000
IT worker shortfall
April 20, 2000

Information Technology Association of America
National Association of Colleges and Employers

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