Months before Chris Hearon graduated with a pharmacy degree from the University of Georgia, he already found a job at a locally-owned pharmacy in his hometown of Augusta.
Hearon, who graduated May 4, started Monday at Summerville Pharmacy on Wrightsboro Road, but signed a contract in January to manage and partially own the store.
The 24-year-old attributes his success in finding employment straight out of college to having local connections.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity coming right out of pharmacy school,” he said. “It’s probably not very standard for most people.”
For many recent college graduates, it isn’t.
Career advisers at Georgia Regents University said it usually take students six to 18 months to find a job in their field of study.
“It’s still going to be at least six months or so if they are just starting now,” said GRU career adviser Amanda Boland. “We have encouraged students to start earlier than now, but of course a lot of them just aren’t able to. June is a very busy month for me.”
Another career adviser at GRU’s Career Center, Melissa Hudson Hall, said her upcoming calendar is just as full with new graduates.
“What we continue to see is that students will generally wait until near the end of their academic career to seriously consider who they are and what contribution they want to make to the world,” she said. “Add to that the economic downturn and some of the stressors of that, and it makes it a little bit harder for students to find their way.”
Paul Matson, who earned his master’s degree in business administration, said he started the job hunt six months ago and estimated he’d sent out 10 to 20 applications to banking institutions in the area.
His goal was to find work locally as a mortgage underwriter or loan officer but was willing to travel outside of Augusta if necessary.
“I’m just trying to find the right job,” the 29-year-old said. “I’m kind of optimistic right now. I think now I’m going to be putting more effort into it because I’m actually done.”
Michael Jordan Pruner and Monica Burnett found themselves in a similar position as Matson.
Pruner, a 26-year-old political science major, is hoping to get a diplomacy job in New York or Paris but hasn’t seen any postings. His backup plan is to teach English abroad.
Burnett, 24, is hopeful that the relationships she built in college will help her land a teaching job in a Georgia elementary school. She has applied locally and in other state districts.
“It’s very competitive,” Burnett said. “One teaching job might bring in like 400 applicants. That in itself is a hassle. Having connections is a blessing.”
The Economic Policy Institute predicts the unemployment rate for this year’s college graduates will be at 8.8 percent, and the underemployment rate, which includes unemployment figures, is 18.3 percent. In 2007, those rates were 5.7 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively. Department of Labor statistics show the unemployment rate is 7.5 percent nationally and 8.2 percent in Georgia.
“The good news is these graduates are walking into an economic expansion as opposed to a recession,” said Jeff Humphreys, the director of UGA’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. “The job market is expanding. It’s expanding in nearly every private sector.”
Humphreys said this is the best time in six years for new college graduates to enter the workforce
“The bad news, though, is that we’re only about halfway back in terms of recovering the jobs that were lost from the recession,” he said. “You better spread your net wider than just Georgia. A lot of other states are farther ahead.”
Although Georgia lagged for the past two years in job recovery, the state’s economy is now growing slightly faster than the nation’s, he said.
The most promising industries, Humphreys said, are health care, life sciences and biotechnology. Given that everyone Hearon knew from pharmacy school has found a job, his field seems to have a bright outlook.
The pharmaceutical market, however, has tightened a bit in recent years, Hearon said.
“There’s still plenty of jobs in Georgia for pharmacists,” he said. “It just might not be the exact place you want to live for the rest of your life. I think trading cites for a little while to secure a job is definitely worth it.”