- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2008

College seniors in the University System of Maryland say those looking for jobs in the slumping economy now more than ever must go beyond just graduating with good grades.

Sidney Bowie, a Baltimore native and a senior at University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, said he began plotting a strategy in his freshman year, when deciding to study accounting and signing up for summer internships.

“If I’d gone with another major, even in good times, it might have been difficult getting a job,” he said. Now, with the economy, there definitely are no guarantees, but with a general degree, I think it would have been more difficult. I’m very happy I got something specific. People need income statements and will always need auditors.”

KPMG LLP, one of the country’s top accounting firms, has selected Mr. Bowie to become a certified public accountant (CPA) when he completes his credit hours. Mr. Bowie says his potential salary is competitive because the firm is one of the world’s best and because accountants, especially CPAs, are in demand.

Mr. Bowie recommends that potential job seekers study demand trends among occupations before choosing a training or educational program.

“The pay scale is going up,” he said, echoing a KPMG recruiter. “The difference between now and before the economy [slumped] is the number of people getting hired.”

Theresa Queenan, director of UMES’ Career Services and Cooperative Education, agrees that just having a degree is no longer enough.

“They need an internship,” she said. “Our students know they need to gain experience to get a top salary in the work force. This is a trend and students are understanding the value.”

Jessica Cline, a 2008 Salisbury University graduate, credits several internships in helping her land a good-paying, entry-level job.

Miss Cline studied interpersonal communications and marketing/management. She is using her training and skills at an information-technology recruiting and consulting firm, the ACI Group, in her hometown of Baltimore.

“Internships are essential, and I think mine made me a more well-rounded candidate,” Miss Cline said. “I was lucky to have a few internships on my resume that offered a broad range of experiences.”

She said her salary matches or exceeds what friends who recently graduated earn.

“The company also offers health insurance, which was an added bonus on top of my salary,” Miss Cline said. “Though I would ideally like to be making more money, since living in the city is more expensive, I was told that there is room for growth if I work hard and stay committed.”

The number of students seeking pre-employment internships is up by 25 percent to 30 percent, Miss Queenan said. She anticipates the trend to continue upward, saying, “More companies are looking for it.”

Charlie Endicott, an associate director of Career Services at Salisbury, said studies show 40 percent to 60 percent of students who take internships get jobs right after college.

“More companies are creating internship programs,” he said. “They are a better way of evaluating a possible candidate.”

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