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New career planning tool helps students see trends in jobs, wages

A new data tool that students can use to determine employment and wage outcomes from various programs of study was unveiled Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The Graduate Employment Outcomes tool is intended to help students make informed choices about which fields of study offer the best opportunities for jobs and wages.

Parents and career counselors may also find the information useful to help as students plan education and future careers. Other potential users include educators who want to align post-secondary program offerings with labor market demand and policymakers who want to identify which sectors of the economy have an oversupply or undersupply of workers.

“The Graduate Employment Outcomes tool will give students a clearer picture of the Minnesota labor market and what fields of study offer favorable career opportunities,” said DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “At the same time, planners can use the tool to develop training and educational programs that fit employer needs.”

Conclusions from DEED about the data in the report:

• Choosing a college major is a main driver of economic success after graduation and demonstrates the importance of choosing a major with understanding of labor market trends.

• There are more opportunities in Minnesota for people with degrees that are technical (focused on analytical/quantitative skills) geared toward growing sectors of health care and social assistance and education.

“The Graduate Employment Outcomes tool is a result of a groundbreaking effort by state agencies to link data across sectors,” said Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. “Students now have a much clearer picture of where the jobs are, and what fields of study provide the best earning potential.”

Nursing offers a striking example of high employability (90 percent for practical nursing certificates and 87 percent for registered nurse associate degree programs) but scored low in full-time continuous employment.

“In cases like these, where a program does well in one area but not so well in another, it is up to users to decide what matters most to them,” the study reported. “Are employability prospects immediately after graduation most important or is full-time stable employment equally relevant? Earning prospects are also a powerful motivation to pursue a degree and major.”

The study found programs that score highly on all measurements were rare.

We can also see that graduates in some fields (nursing, IT, marketing, business administration and others) can successfully find jobs with either a four-year or a shorter term award because employers value various types of credential,” the report found. “There are clearly multiple paths into the job market for these high-demand fields.”

The data tool lets searchers select a variety of options so they can search for wage trends and education results statewide, in greater Minnesota and in the Twin Cities.

Searching by key word such as wages, lets searchers see what the differences can be in earning power related to education (even looking at public versus private schools). And graphics make it easy to see top industries of employment — health care and social assistance — for graduates 24 months after they earned their diploma.

The report found those with vocational certificates fare well in the Minnesota job market.

The online tool, part of a collaborative effort with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, was developed using data involving students who graduated from post-secondary programs in Minnesota between July 2009 and June 2011.

Those students were then tracked (using Minnesota unemployment insurance records) to find out how many were working and how much they were making in the first and second years after graduation.

The tool allows users to sort employment and wage outcomes by region, degree awarded, institution type and major field of study. The data will be updated each year with each new graduation class.

As an example of what the data show, the tool indicates that of the 1,696 students who graduated from an engineering program in Minnesota in the 2010-2011 school year, 64 percent of them were employed in Minnesota (including part-timers) in the second year after graduation, earning an annual median wage of $60,459.

Conducting its own analysis of the data, DEED made the following findings:

• Two-thirds of the graduates were employed in Minnesota a year after graduation.

• Overall, wages increased with education level.

• Hourly wages for students who completed bachelor’s and graduate degrees rose at a faster rate than for others, suggesting stronger earning power in the long run.

• Overall, 42 percent of 2011 graduates managed to find a full-time job in Minnesota and keep it for the whole year.

• Health care and social assistance was the dominant hiring sector, employing one-fourth (24 percent) of new graduates with jobs.

In general, programs with an occupational or technical focus had stronger wage and employment outcomes than programs in creative or general disciplines, such as visual arts, journalism, leisure and hospitality, humanities and some social sciences.

For the full report, go to And for the full report go to

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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