Archive for ‘jobs after college’

February 27, 2015

So you’re interested in a career in hotel and resort management?

by Grace

What is it like to manage a hotel, and what kind of background is needed for this career?

Here’s the story of a hotel manager who does not have a college degree, but who worked his way up from his first job as a valet.

I’m in my late twenties and I work at a major 150+ room hotel in a major city in Louisiana. My official title is “Operations Manager.” I’ve been working in hotels since 2007, first as a valet and bellman for two years at a 200 room corporately-owned resort in coastal Alabama, then at the front desk at a smaller independent hotel. After that I was a front desk agent at a 300 room corporate hotel in Dallas where I was promoted to front desk manager, and finally I moved to Louisiana a year ago. I started at my current hotel as front desk manager and was promoted to Operations Manager in a couple of months. I’ve been at this hotel for one year.

A college degree may be the preferred way to enter this field, but another way is through “a beastly work ethic”.

To get my first hotel job I just walked in and applied. It’s easy to get an entry level position. To be an Operations Manager, you usually need a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management/Business or, like me, a beastly work ethic, willingness to go above and beyond expectations, work long hours, and volunteer to take on tasks around the hotel that go outside of your job description.

A degree can offer specialization in various areas, including travel and tourism.

Hospitality management, or hospitality administration, is a large field with an array of majors. Depending on your interest and skills, you can pursue degrees centered on hotel management, travel and tourism, conference or event management, the restaurant industry and more. A course of study can cover everything from business to food science to botany, and internships and assistantships are typical components as well.

U.S. News offers information about hospitality management scholarships.* ranked hospitality management four-year college programs, including these top five:

  1. Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration
  2. Michigan State University, School of Hospitality Business
  3. University of Nevada at Las Vegas, William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration
  4. Fairleigh Dickinson University, International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
  5. Virginia Tech, Pamplin College of Business, Dept. of Hospitality and Tourism Management

An associate’s degree in hospitality management is another way to prepare for a career in this field.

The bad news is that competition is tough for the best jobs.

Job growth in management positions is projected to show little or no growth over the next several years, even though growth in tourism and travel is predicted to be robust.  Like many other segments of the economy, the hospitality industry is streamlining operations, leading to scaled-back staffing.  Median salary in 2012 was $46,810.

In New York, SUNY at Delhi is a state school that offers a BBA Hospitality Management: Hotel and Resort Management.  Their students can participate in the Walt Disney College Program.

… Through this program, students work at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for six months in a unique working/learning experience. Students can now earn SUNY Delhi course credit for the Disney courses offered as part of this program while they are working at Disney. Any student interested in this special program option should discuss it with his/her advisor early in their Delhi career. Disney courses include Communications, Leadership, Hospitality Management, Human Resources Management, Disney Marketing U, and Disney Experiential Learning.

It sounds like a good program for the right type of students, but I wonder if they are the target of jokes about their “Mickey Mouse” degree.

* ADDED: doesn’t disclose its ranking method, but their list can be a starting place to find colleges that offer hospitality management major.  The College Board is another resource to use for finding and evaluating schools.


Andy Orin, “Career Spotlight: What I Do as a Hotel Manager”, Lifehacker, January 20, 2015.

Matt Konrad, “Check Into These Hospitality Management Scholarships”, U.S. News, March 20, 2014.

February 18, 2015

Best and worst states for teacher salaries

by Grace

States with the highest public school teacher salaries, adjusted for cost of living:

  1. Michigan
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Ohio
  4. Illinois
  5. Massachusetts

At the other end, states with the lowest teacher salaries

  1. Hawaii
  2. South Dakota
  3. Vermont
  4. Maine
  5. New Hampshire

The green bars in the chart below show the average teacher salary for each state, adjusted for differences in cost of living; the gray marks show the average salary before factoring in cost of living.

As a New York resident, it doesn’t surprise me to see that we have the highest salaries for teachers before COL adjustment.  Even so, New York teacher salaries are among the top ten in the nation even after taking COL into account.


Michael Winters, “Graph of the Week: Where are Teachers Really Paid Most?”, EdSurge, Feb 4, 2015.

February 16, 2015

Scott Walker — destroyer or savior of higher education?

by Grace

In defending his proposal to cut Wisconsin’s higher education budget by $300 million over two years, Governor Scott Walker admonished professors to “work harder”.

“Maybe it’s time for faculty and staff to start thinking about teaching more classes and doing more work and this authority frees up the [University of Wisconsin] administration to make those sorts of requests,” …

Maybe he should have focused more on administrative costs, which have far outpaced instructional costs in American universities.

But now comes word from UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank that the cuts would come in the form of layoffs of administrative personnel”.

Deans, directors and department heads will be responsible for making decisions on how budget cuts are allocated, but administrative units will take will take larger cuts in an effort to preserve educational functions, she said.

It seems that common sense may prevail, but concern remains that the governor and possible presidential candidate may be trying to kill liberal arts education.

Walker proposed to rewrite the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement. He apparently wanted to strip out its frills (stuff like “extended training,” “public service,” improving “the human condition,” and “the search for truth”) and inject it with a more practical goal: meeting “the state’s workforce needs.”

Walker later backtracked and ‘blamed the changes on a last-minute “drafting error”‘.  But skeptics remain suspicious that liberal arts will increasingly take a back seat to vocational programs.

Liberal-arts and humanities programs at public universities are increasingly under siege as state legislatures cut the institutions’ funding, forcing school administrators to make tough decisions about what to eliminate. The obvious targets are the programs that yield a lower return on investment—at least in a concrete, monetary sense—and are more nebulous in their impact on the economy. What sounds like it has more dollar signs and productivity attached to it: philosophy or America’s favorite new acronym, STEM?

Maybe these critics should also focus on New York’s Democratic Governor Cuomo, who has pushed for increased funding of vocational programs in state colleges, and incentivized partnerships between business and schools that promote workforce training through his START-UP NY initiative.  Cuomo also established a STEM scholarship program last year.

I have not heard of any states pouring additional resources into liberal arts higher education.  Which may be a shame, but is understandable.

This workforce-centric approach “is designed for short-term learning and long-term disaster.”

The problem is that, unlike most STEM fields, universities have lowered standards for liberal arts education.

In theory, a college liberal arts degree is a valuable commodity in the job market. In reality, the way colleges have diluted the curriculum means a liberal arts degree offers little added value in qualifying workers for today’s job market.

So the question is, who is actually trying to kill liberal arts education?


Lucy McCalmont, “Scott Walker urges professors to work harder”, Politico, January 29, 2015.

Ann Althouse, “How will the University of Wisconsin—Madison absorb something like $90 million in cuts from Scott Walker’s new budget?”, Althouse, February 12, 2015.

Alia Wongfeb, “The Governor Who (Maybe) Tried to Kill Liberal-Arts Education”, Atlantic, February 11, 2015.

February 5, 2015

These days it’s tough for a new teacher to get a job in New York

by Grace

New college graduates in New York find there are too many teachers and not enough jobs.

Of the 15,102 candidates who were certified in 2011-12, only 4,289 were employed in the state’s public schools, including charters, as of October 2013….

Tiffany MacPeek gave up her dream of getting a teaching job and now works in medical billing.

“If I knew it was this hard to get a teaching job, I would have picked something completely different in college,” MacPeek said. “All I knew was teaching is a great field. No one told me.”

Colleges are producing too many teacher candidates, but they don’t believe it is their responsibility to proactively educate students about that problem.

Experts say an oversupply of teachers, particularly in elementary education, is being churned out by teacher-preparation programs. They say colleges don’t do a good job of forecasting hiring needs or of adequately informing students of their employment prospects….

Colleges have a responsibility to provide students with projections on their future employment, said Ken Wagner, senior deputy commissioner for education policy at the state Education Department….

Not our job

Colleges say it’s not their responsibility to proactively educate students on their job prospects. Nor, they say, is it possible to predict the job market.

Students need to take more initiative researching job prospects because colleges are often not very helpful.

Posamentier said colleges should not be in the business of telling students what they should or should not study.

“It’s a free market and we don’t guarantee jobs, just like law schools or MBA programs,” he said. “These are big boys and girls. We will always let students know if they ask, but who am I to say, ‘You need to do this, not that?'”

This is in contrast to schools like Texas A&M, which proactively warned petroleum engineering students to be realistic about future job growth.

State officials are among those who believe colleges should be more proactive in informing students about weak career prospects.

Colleges have a responsibility to provide students with projections on their future employment, said Ken Wagner, senior deputy commissioner for education policy at the state Education Department.

Some areas of teaching remain in demand.

The colleges are graduating too many elementary education students and not enough in such areas as English language learners, special education and high school math and physics, he said.


Venugopal Ramaswamy, “Tough job market for NY teacher candidates”, The Journal News, February 1, 2015.

February 3, 2015

Baby Boomers’ kids are doing worse than their parents

by Grace

The Typical Millennial Is $2,000 Poorer Than His Parents at This Age

More young people are living in poverty and fewer have jobs compared their parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers, in 1980.

Even though a higher percentage of today’s young people have college degrees, more live in poverty.




Wages are lower for those who are working full-time.



Unemployment rates were lower and labor participation rates for young people were higher in 1980
, measures that are consistent with the higher poverty rates of today.  Another related cause may be that more Millenials are still in college at later ages than Baby Boomers were at the same ages.  But today’s high college dropout rates mean the younger generation will fail to reap the financial benefits of a college degree, and will even be penalized since a few years of college may be worse than never enrolling.

The immigrant effect

It’s also worth pointing out that the United States has absorbed millions of immigrants over the past 30 years, often from poorer Latin and South American countries. (The Census notes that the share of ethnic minorities has doubled over the last 33 years.) It’s possible that, even as these young families have raised their own living standards by moving to the U.S. and contributed to a growth economy, their below-average wages, when lumped into the aggregate, make it look like native-born families’ wage growth is worse than it really is.

Lower marriage rates may be a factor.

Unlike prior generations of young adults, the majority of Millennials have never been married

Finally, the “jobless recovery” we have been experiencing ties into the financial misery that Millenials are feeling today, especially considering that 1980-1982 was a time of back-to-back recessions.


Derek Thompson, “The Typical Millennial Is $2,000 Poorer Than His Parents at This Age”, Atlantic, January 31, 2015.

January 28, 2015

How many college graduates earn minimum wage?

by Grace

7.9% of minimum-wage earners have a college degree.  This translates to be about 260,000 workers

This and other minimum-wage facts are available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

50% of minimum age workers are age 16 to 24.

Most minimum-wage workers are not poor.  So while raising minimum wage would help some workers, it would probably not have much effect in reducing poverty.

… Less than a quarter of minimum wage workers live at or below the poverty line, while two-thirds come from families above 150 percent of the poverty line. In fact, the average family income of a minimum wage worker exceeds $53,000 a year.

President Obama continues to advocate for raising the federal minimum wage, and Oregon is currently engaged in a debate to raise it at the state level.


Jeffry Bartash, “Breaking down who earns the minimum wage”, MarketWatch, Jan. 23, 2015.

January 27, 2015

Internships are no longer ‘the golden key to employment’

by Grace

Linkedin surveyed its members to get a sense of how often internships lead to full-time jobs, and the findings were less than encouraging”.

The conversion rate (defined as interns becoming full-time workers with their employers) was low, according to Linkedin’s career expert Nicole Williams.

“Ten years ago an internship was the golden key to employment whereas in this competitive landscape only the strongest survive with a job offer,” she explained.

Accounting internships had the highest conversion rates, at 31%.  Here are the other top industries:

Management Consulting:  25%
Computer Software:  24%
Retail:  23%
Internet:  22%
Information Technology & Services:  22%

The industries with the lowest conversion rates:


Generally speaking, internships are important in securing employment after graduation.  But unpaid internships seem to offer minimal benefits in that regard, and other factors must be considered in assessing the value of getting work experience during college.  Variations by industry are important, as well as by the types of job duties.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that last year the overall conversion rate was 51%.  Considering anecdotal information about the popularity of unpaid internships, this is hard to believe.  NACE’s numbers come from surveying their own members, which I suspect are self-selected to skew toward more positive results.

Related:  “Many young college graduates faced with ‘culture of internships’”


Mark Koba, “These companies hire interns for full-time jobs”, CNBC, March 20, 2014.

January 12, 2015

Dropping oil prices create concern for petroleum engineering students

by Grace

Plunging oil prices have raised the level of anxiety among college students pursuing petroleum-related degrees.

When Daniel Forero left home in California to pursue a petroleum engineering degree at Texas A&M University, he thought his career prospects were strong.

As the energy sector flourished, many around him pointed to a petroleum engineering degree as a surefire ticket to success in the age of the American oil boom.

But as oil prices continue to plummet – they reached five-year lows last week – Forero, now a senior, is quickly getting a harsh lesson in the cyclical nature of the energy business.

“What I kept hearing was ‘there’s plenty of jobs in this industry,’ ” Forero said. “Now that I’ve gotten to this point, it doesn’t seem that way.”

Well, two years ago Texas A&M was warning petroleum engineering students about the “sustainability of the entry level job market” given the explosive growth in the numbers of students in that field.  The price of oil was not guaranteed to keep rising forever, and smart people could have predicted this turn of events.

“They talk about oil prices going down, enrollment going up, and say ‘you’re in engineering – you do the math,’ ”

The bad news keeps coming.

Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar hinted at job cuts in an email telling employees that “2015 is going to be a tough year.” A week earlier, the company — which counts on oil producers as customers for its oil-field services — announced 1,000 layoffs in the Eastern Hemisphere.

BP, the London-based international integrated oil company, already has said it will cut an unspecified number of midlevel supervisors in its oil production and refining businesses, as well as some back-office jobs.

Meanwhile, big independent producers including Marathon, ConocoPhillips and Apache say they’ll cut their 2015 capital budgets. While those budgets don’t include salaries, the figures are a sign of a more conservative approach.

Engineers and others with strong experience are less at risk for losing jobs, but new college graduates may find it tough to snare high-paying jobs.  Anxious students will be looking closely at hiring patterns over the next six to ten months.

… as oil prices fall and enrollment rises, some students are considering pursuing master’s degrees to avoid entering the workforce when companies are scaling back. Others are looking into sales or surveying positions – jobs that would get them into the industry but wouldn’t necessarily take advantage of their engineering degrees.

The boom and bust nature of the oil business is very familiar to me.  I was working as an exploration geologist during the oil bust of the 1980s, and left the industry to make a career change that turned out well.  Many others did too.  Even though current conditions provoke anxiety among students aspiring to lucrative oil industry jobs, chances are they have skills that will transfer to other fields.  Although it’s disappointing now, it’s helpful to take the long view.


Ryan Holeywell, “Campus anxiety rises as crude price falls”, Houston Chronicle, December 12, 2014.

Ryan Holeywell, “With oil layoffs likely, it helps to be experienced and tech-savvy”, Houston Chronicle, December 26, 2014.

January 1, 2015

Top ‘Cost of College’ posts in 2014

by Grace

Cost of College posts that received the most page views in 2014:

  1. A warning to petroleum engineering students
  2. Only two of the top ten universities give out merit scholarships
  3. Don’t pick a college major based on today’s hot jobs
  4. Purdue scholarship chart clearly spells out basics, but the devil is in the details
  5. School bus drivers collect unemployment benefits during summer break
  6. Will a year of college cost $100,000 in 18 years?
  7. No, no, no! – $200,000 in debt after a degree in communications
  8. University of Maryland College Park merit scholarships for out-of-state students
  9. Will checking ‘no financial aid needed’ help your admissions chances?
  10. Online degree from London School of Economics for $5,000

I hope the top post about the boom and bust cycle of the oil industry has been helpful to students contemplating choice of major.  Given the dramatic drop in oil prices over the last few months, I should write a new post about petroleum industry jobs.

Happy New Year and thank you for reading Cost of College in 2014!



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December 31, 2014

Rising numbers of PhDs but declining career prospects

by Grace

Universities are awarding doctoral degrees at an accelerating pace, despite the fact that the career prospects of those who receive their Ph.D.s appear to be worsening.

That dichotomy is among the starker findings of the annual data on doctorate recipients from the National Science Foundation, drawn from a survey sponsored by the foundation and other federal agencies and conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. The data may for some reinforce the idea that institutions are turning out more Ph.D. recipients than can be absorbed, at least in some fields.

American universities awarded 52,760 doctorates in 2013, up 3.5 percent from nearly 50,977 in 2012 and nearly 8 percent from 48,903 in 2011….

Higher uncertainty about post-graduate employment

The numbers suggest that more people are seeking terminal degrees and that universities are welcoming them with open arms — but the data on what the Ph.D. holders do with their new degrees raise questions about whether the credentials will pay off for the individuals themselves, at least in the short term.

Just 62.7 of doctorate recipients in 2013 had what the survey defines as a “definite commitment” of employment or further study, down sharply from the usual rate over the last 20 years, as seen in the chart below.


This comment points out that smart people sometimes don’t seem understand the economics of supply and demand.

Anyone considering starting a PhD should first take undergraduate economics 101 – particularly the bit on supply and demand. This article could be used as a case study.

It is bewildering that smart people choose to do PhDs in fields that have limited employment opportunities – and then complain about how hard it is to get a tenure track job.

Related:  “Hypereducated poor people have not learned the lesson of self-sufficiency”


Doug Lederman, “Doctorates Up, Career Prospects Not”, Inside Higher Ed, December 8, 2014.


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