Annual 'Illini Success' survey shows job, salary prospects improving

Annual 'Illini Success' survey shows job, salary prospects improving

URBANA — An improving economy appears to be translating into better career prospects and higher salaries for University of Illinois students, based on its third annual survey of graduates.

This year's "Illini Success" survey shows that 89 percent of 2016-17 graduates who responded had secured a "first destination" within six months of graduation. Specifically, 62 percent had found jobs and 27 percent were in graduate school or continuing education, and 7 percent were still looking for work.

The overall placement rate is up from 88 percent for the 2015-16 class and 84 percent in 2014-15, the first time the UI conducted the comprehensive survey.

The average salary campuswide also rose from $55,390 in 2014-15 to $59,494 in 2016-17. Salaries grew in every college, including a 13 percent increase for graduates of the College of Applied Health Sciences.

The campus has been ahead of national averages in graduate placement, according to Julia Makela, associate director for assessment and research for the UI Career Center.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, which collects data from schools across the country, reported an average placement rate of 81 percent for 2015-16 and 82 percent the previous year. The numbers for 2016-17 won't be available until the fall, she said.

"Based on where we've been, we think we're going to be in pretty good shape," Makela said.

It's hard to pinpoint the reason for the increases, she said, but "the economy has been doing really well."

The campus has also gotten better at connecting with students post-graduation since it started collecting data in 2014, she said.

Makela said inflation, and a stronger economy, likely played a role in rising salaries.

"What was really interesting this year was watching what happened with bonuses," which are up 29 percent over the last three years, she said.

In 2014-15, for instance, 22 percent of full-time employed graduates reported signing bonuses averaging $5,522. The next year, 23 percent received bonuses averaging $6,443, and in 2016-17, those numbers rose to 24 percent and $7,112.

That parallels what's happening nationwide, as a stronger economy and falling unemployment rate prompted employers to hand out more bonuses, though not necessarily higher wages, she said.

70 percent stay in-state

The UI hopes to gather data from Big Ten schools and other peer universities to do comparisons and further analysis.

These kinds of surveys are common, though there's quite a bit of variation in how campuses conduct them or present their data, Makela said.

The University of Iowa reported a 94.6 percent placement rate for its 2015-16 class, but the average salary was lower — $45,430. Some schools highlight figures for select colleges rather than overall figures.

The UI follows the standards issued by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2014, with common questions for institutions to use, she said.

This year's UI survey reached out to 7,676 students across nine colleges who graduated in August 2016, December 2016 and May 2017. About 65 percent responded, and the UI gathered information about 71 percent in all — 5,433 graduates.

Of those who were employed, 70 percent had jobs in Illinois, and 3 percent reported working internationally.

All majors had strong overall placement rates, from 81 percent (education) to 95 percent (business). The proportion of students who had taken jobs vs. pursuing advanced degrees varied greatly, however.

In the College of Media, 86 percent of graduates had taken jobs, whereas 64 percent of social work graduates opted to further their education.

It's not just engineering and business majors who have strong placement rates, Makela said. The survey breaks down some stereotypes and "sheds new light on what our graduates do," she said.

For instance, 78 percent of English and creative writing graduates had found jobs, while 12 percent are continuing their education, for a 90 percent overall placement rate — among the highest on campus, she said.

"They go all over the place," she said. "They're working in tech and in government and in nonprofits and in education. It's just really exciting to be able to point to that in such a concrete way" for both students and parents, she said.

The full report is at

'Great time' for teachers

At a UI job fair for education students on Monday, future teachers Karen Sung and Gabriella Mizgala were talking with school districts from the Chicago area, where they both hope to land elementary school jobs.

"I think for teachers it's a great time to graduate, because there's lots of openings," Sung said.

School districts are hiring more in part because certification requirements for teachers have tightened, so they can't move easily from the elementary level to middle school or high school teaching jobs, said Duane Ehmer, principal at Iroquois West Middle School.

UI senior Jake Navarez, who hopes to land a middle-school teaching job in Chicago public schools or Champaign-Urbana, was fairly confident of his prospects. He is a Filipino, and male, two characteristics that urban school districts are looking for, and he has double certification in both language arts and math, he said.

"They need teachers," he said. "I attended Chicago Public Schools as a student. I can relate to the kids outside of the classroom. I just think it'd be awesome to give back to the community."

Who hired UI grads?

Here are some of the biggest employers for the class of 2017:

— 100+: UI at Urbana-Champaign

— 25+: Amazon, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, Microsoft, PricewaterhouseCoopers

— 15+: Allstate, Epic Systems, Google, IBM, Medline Industries, Motorola Solutions, PepsiCo, Yelp

— 10+: Boeing Co., Carle, Cerner Corp., Facebook, John Deere, Northrop Grumman and six others

What they're making

The average salaries by college for 2017 UI graduates:

— Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science: $48,663

— Applied Health Sciences: $43,579

— Business: $62,224

— Education: $41,036

— Engineering: $75,450

— Fine and Applied Arts: $45,103

— Liberal Arts and Sciences: $53,226

— Media: $42,409

— Social Work: $30,683

— Overall average: $59,494

Bonuses: 24 percent reported signing bonuses averaging $7,112

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