There's a question that has brought mixed feelings from dread to elation for soon-to-be college graduates everywhere:
"What are you doing after graduation?"
According to the University Career Services’ 2017 Undergraduate First Destination Report, 91.1 percent of 2017 UNC undergraduates experienced positive outcomes within six months of graduating. These positive outcomes ranged from full-time employment to military service and continuing education.
While over 90 percent of 2017 UNC undergraduates found success according to the First Destination Report — that success doesn’t always look the same.
The data comes from self-reported student surveys, LinkedIn data and information from the National Student Clearinghouse, an agency that collects data about graduates continuing their education.
Of the 3,755 members in the 2017 graduating class, 62.6 percent responded to the survey or were accounted for using LinkedIn or National Student Clearinghouse data.
Within the students accounted for by data, 60.3 percent found full-time employment, 25.9 percent continued their education, 4.9 percent were working part-time or taking time off and 8.9 percent were still seeking opportunities.
Gary Miller, director of University Career Services, said the office worries about students who don’t appear in the data, but there is also concern for students who are unemployed or are working in jobs they’re unhappy with.
“We are equally concerned about students who accepted a full-time job that maybe they're not so thrilled about or it wasn't the type of work they wanted to do,” Miller said. “We always, per student, want to make sure that people achieve whatever their goals are.”
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that there were 7.3 million job openings in December 2018, with a job openings rate of 4.7 percent.
Miller said his office encourages students to plan various options after graduation, because although the job market is flourishing, particular fields and industries have limited openings.
“The economy at the macro level can be really good and be really in favor of the job seeker,” Miller said. “... That doesn't mean that an individual student might not still have a hard time, because their particular interest area might still be very competitive, or it might be a field that's shrinking.”
Michael Koh, a 2018 graduate, has held odd jobs since graduating, but none in the field he was hoping to pursue.
“It sucks,” Koh said. “It was not great because it was just not a lot of stability because a lot of them (jobs) were temp things or were just part time things.”
Koh graduated from the School of Media and Journalism hoping to land a job in broadcast journalism. Since graduating, he has worked at Barnes and Noble, Target and the UNC Student Stores. Now, he works in the Equipment Room in the MJ-School, but has kept up the search to find a job in his desired field.
“I've been still been applying to stations. I had a writing test at Spectrum just a couple of weekends ago,” Koh said. “So it's not like I've stopped looking around.”
But even for graduates who land jobs in the field they wanted, some discover the path they choose is not for them.
Georgia Brunner, a 2017 graduate and former DTH editorial board member, double majored in history and public policy. She expected to pursue a career in non-profit organizations or public policy, but instead returned to school to get a Ph.D. in history.
“I intended to work,” Brunner said. “... And then figured out pretty quickly that I wanted to go to grad school.”
For Brunner, the cost of living is the biggest difficulty. Since graduation, she’s lived in Atlanta, New York and Chapel Hill.
“All those places, my job didn't pay very well,” Brunner said. “It’s tough to make it sometimes.”
According to the Undergraduate First Destination Report May 2017, graduates saw an average starting salary of $57,050. From the 2,351 students whose outcome is known, about 18 percent disclosed their salary. This is approximately 11 percent of the entire graduating class.
For soon-to-be graduates entering the job market, salary and job openings are important details to consider when choosing a path. But not all graduates jump straight into jobs or grad school. Megan Cain, a senior in the MJ-School, said she wants to take time off before committing to a position.
“I want to take my grandpa on a road trip,” Cain said. “And I promised him that he and I were going to go somewhere and that is the very first thing I'm going to do after I graduate, is take my grandpa on a road trip.”
Job or not, Cain said feels like UNC has prepared her for whatever is to come.
“Carolina brought me the experiences as well the academic rigor that I needed and to bring discipline into my life," Cain said. “... I think it's really helped shape me both as a person inside and outside of the classroom. So I'm eternally grateful for that.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.