All of this means that it's a good time to be graduating from college. But for those with specialized degrees, it's an even better time. Starting salaries for business or technical majors have grown the most. Marketing graduates, for example, saw their average initial salary offer increase by 10.3 percent this year, according to NACE. Salaries offered to liberal arts grads on the other hand increased on average by only 1.3 percent in 2006.
Charlie Smith, a film major at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., says most of his friends with economics or business degrees have already lined up jobs for next year, while he and his friends in the liberal arts are still struggling to find something.
"Of everybody I know who has already graduated, there's nobody who hit the ground running," says Mr. Smith. "It's not because anybody's stupid or they don't have any talent. It's just impossible to hit the ground running unless you're an accountant."
Christopher Bayerle, an art history major at Birmingham Southern College in Alabama who graduates this spring, worries that only grads from top universities or with advanced degrees will stand out in today's job market. "Even if we have more jobs [in the US] each day, there are so many colleges in this country, and so many people are going to college," he says.
Still, there may be a number of opportunities for grads like Smith and Mr. Bayerle, as a number of employers see value in a broad range of studies. Of 150 senior executives recently surveyed by the staffing organization Accountemps, 21 percent said that to prepare for future business success they would study the liberal arts, up from 14 percent in 1996. Liberal arts came in second only to business administration, which gained 39 percent of the votes, but beat both accounting and law. "[The liberal arts] really stress critical thinking and analysis, which is a skill set that's important for a number of organizations," says Good.
Though many accounting and economics majors land jobs early, only 30 to 40 percent of students have secured a job by commencement, estimates Dr. White at Rutgers. But six months after graduation, at least 75 percent of graduates will have jobs and another 20 percent will have moved on to graduate school.