WMU News

Survey indicates WMU alumni do well in job market

April 6, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- It pays to be an engineer, according to the results of an employment survey published in March by Western Michigan University's Career and Student Employment Services.

The results appear in the 2001 edition of CSES' annual "Graduate Survey," which tracked the status of WMU students who received their degrees between August 1999 and June 2000.

The study indicates that compared to their peers, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences alumni were faring the best in the work place. In addition to reporting a high degree of employment, they appeared to be earning the highest median salaries.

That was particularly evident at the bachelor's level when median salaries were broken down by major. Of the eight engineering programs for which there was statistically significant data, only the salary of printing majors fell below $40,000 a year.

About 4,000 undergraduate students and 1,500 graduate students received diplomas from WMU during the time period covered by the "Graduate Survey." Three months after graduating, nearly 4,000 of these alumni were sent employment surveys.

Some 25 percent of bachelor's degree recipients and 26 percent of advanced degree recipients returned the questionnaires. The information they supplied was self-reported and not verified by CSES.

"Although we didn't receive a statistically significant number of responses for all of our degree programs, the information received does give us an indication of how our graduates are doing in the job market and the kind of salaries they command," Lynn Kelly-Albertson, director of CSES, says.

"It also provides useful data that current students and alumni can use in planning their careers and campus offices can use in developing required materials for accreditation documents."

A highlight of the survey is a summary, by degree-granting units, of the percentages of WMU alumni who said they were employed and the median salaries they were earning.

The summary for those who obtained bachelor's degrees was: College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 85.2 percent, $42,809; Division of Continuing Education, 79.2 percent, $39,482; College of Health and Human Services, 75.9, $37,173; College of Education, 76.1 percent, $35,064; Haworth College of Business, 85.6, $34,158; College of Fine Arts, 78 percent, $28,378; College of Arts and Sciences, 69.6 percent, $26,715; and College of Aviation, 93.8 percent, $22,680.

The breakdown for respondents who obtained advanced degrees was: College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 87.5 percent, $54,243; Haworth College of Business, 100 percent, $52,069; College of Arts and Sciences, 85.1 percent, $44,113; College of Fine Arts, 100 percent, $43,000; College of Education, 94.2 percent, $38,274; and College of Health and Human Services, 92.5, $32,785.

Some of the highest median salaries at the undergraduate level were from alumni who majored in engineering management, $47,000; physician assistant, which was phased out in 1998 and incorporated in a master of science in medicine, $46,000; computer information systems, $41,555; integrated supply management, $41,386; and accountancy, $36,079.

The highest median salaries at the graduate level included those earned by alumni who studied electrical engineering, $56,933; engineering management, $55,736; business administration, $54,281; public administration, $50,300; and computer science, $48,200.

Kelly-Albertson cautions that median salary calculations were based solely on the incomes reported by survey respondents and do not take into account all of the programs WMU offers or the number of alumni who were well established in a career field prior to receiving their degree.

"And some oddities creep in simply because of the types of programs the University offers and at what level, "she says. "As an example, the overall median salary for College of Health and Human Services alumni is higher at the undergraduate level."

She says it also should be noted that 9.4 percent of alumni who obtained undergraduate degrees and 2.5 percent of alumni who obtained graduate degrees said they were pursuing further education rather than seeking career employment. But she adds that the vast majority of survey respondents indicated that were in the labor force, working in fields related to their degrees.

Positions reported by bachelor's degree recipients included: neuro-biologist, Pharmacia Corp., Kalamazoo, Mich.; wellness coordinator; Banc of America Securities, San Francisco, Calif.; registered nurse, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio; finance administrator, computerjobs.com, Atlanta, Ga.; product design engineer, Daimler-Chrysler, Detroit, Mich.; auditor, U.S. Department of Defense, Arlington Va.; and account manager, Victoria King PR, Los Angles, Calif.

Graduate degree recipients reported employment such as: orientation and mobility specialist, Iowa Braille School, Vinton, Iowa; post-doctoral fellow, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Md.; U.S. Army clinical psychologist, Fort Bragg, N.C.; software engineer, Cisco Systems, San Jose, Calif.; mathematical statistician, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C.; assistant professor, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, La.; and chief engineer, Johnson Controls, Holland, Mich.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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