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TEKsystems Survey Pinpoints Best IT Jobs for New College Graduates

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Work experience trumps GPA and academic pedigree; generalized degrees provide preferred pathway for future career growth 

With the approach of university and college graduations nationwide, TEKsystems®, a leading provider of IT staffing solutions and IT services, today released the results of a survey revealing the top IT jobs for recent graduates along with the key factors hiring managers look at when considering candidates for entry-level positions. The survey was conducted in March 2017 and the results represent the views of more than 250 IT hiring managers across the United States.

Key highlights from the survey include:

Developer Roles Provide the Best Job Opportunities

Q: What skill sets provide the greatest opportunity for recent college graduates searching for entry-level positions? Select all that apply.

Job

Percentage

Applications developer

60%

Technical support

54%

Business/systems analyst

52%

Web developer

48%

Network/systems administrator

39%

Network/systems engineer

37%

Database administrator

35%

Quality assurance engineer

27%

  • TEKsystems’ Take: IT hiring managers recommend applications developer roles as the best opportunity for new college graduates. Individuals with an IT degree in computer science can learn common development environments such as Windows, .NET, Linux and SQL. This experience provides a foundation for future growth in a more specialized area of software development. Coincidentally, developer roles are consistently difficult roles to fill, a result of the sky-high demand for qualified tech professionals across the industry. Technical support, business analyst and web developers are also mentioned as good opportunities for new graduates with generalized degrees. Digital transformation will continue to create a lot of opportunity for new IT professionals as organizations take on more and larger IT projects. These initiatives will require a small number of highly skilled and experienced individuals to design, but a larger number of junior- or entry-level workers to implement.

Generalized IT Degrees Preferred Over Specialized Degrees

Q: For most entry-level positions, which type of degree is most applicable for recent graduates? Select only one.

Type of Degree

Percentage

Generalized/traditional degrees (e.g., CIS, computer science, computing, software engineering

83%

Specialized/new age degrees (e.g., data analysis, human-computer interaction, AI, game development

17%

  • TEKsystems’ Take: In the last several years, we’ve seen an explosion in the different types of degrees and specialized areas of study available for IT related careers, such as data analysis, human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence. However, the vast majority of hiring managers, more than 8 in 10, say a generalized or more traditional technology degree is more applicable for new college graduates. Hiring managers often prefer several years of experience when filling specialized roles, while certain organizations internally develop individuals for specialized roles requiring unique skill sets. The research indicates that new graduates should feel confident their generalized degree is more effective for initially landing a job to gain valuable experience and to focus later on acquiring additional skills and certifications in more specialized areas of IT.

Work Experience and Internships Dominate as Top Factors for Hiring Over GPA and School Attended

Q: When considering a recent graduate for a position, how important are the following factors? Stack rank from most important to least important.

Rank

Factor

Percentage (ranked 1 or 2)

1

Work-related internship/experience

86%

2

Referrals/references

50%

3

GPA

24%

4

School attended

18%

5

Extracurricular activities

11%

6

ROTC or Military Reserve Program

10%

  • TEKsystems’ Take: When considering recent college graduates for entry-level positions, IT hiring managers are loud and clear that work-related internships or experience is the most important factor, ranking it twice as high as the next factor, referrals and references. This is significant as it has implications for both hiring managers seeking candidates as well as students themselves: work-related internships and experience, along with referrals and references, are better predictors of performance for first-time graduates than either GPA or the particular school attended—especially in the fast-paced, ever-evolving industry of technology. It could also speak to an increased focus on finding the right cultural fit versus technical fit, where the decisive criteria in competing candidates with less proven backgrounds would be practical experience and an ability to assimilate into an existing team. A more “build versus buy” approach.

Salary Still Tops, but Workplace Flexibility More Important Than Healthcare; Nearly Half of Hiring Managers Willing to Offer a 10 percent Premium for Exceptional Candidates

Q: In terms of a hiring package, which factors do you consider most attractive to a recent college graduate when offering them a job?

Rank

Package

Percentage (ranked 1 or 2)

1

Salary

85%

2

Workplace flexibility (i.e., ability to telecommute, flexible work schedule

68%

3

Healthcare

26%

4

Tuition reimbursement (on-going education)

16%

5

Retirement/401k

5%

Q: If a candidate were truly exceptional, how far above the budgeted salary would you be willing to offer? Select only one.

Percentage Above

Response Percentage

10% above

46%

5% above

32%

15% above

15%

20% above

5%

More than 20% above

2%

  • TEKsystems’ Take: Not surprisingly, IT hiring managers say salary is the most attractive aspect of a hiring package for recent college graduates. A recent graduate could be in-line for as much as a 10 percent bump in the initial salary offering if a hiring manager finds the candidate exceptional. However, that’s the maximum amount most recent graduates should expect for job offers, as the salary bump percentages drastically drop beyond that. Hiring managers are also well aligned with the desires of IT candidates when thinking about the most attractive pieces of the hiring package puzzle, ranking workplace flexibility as the second highest factor—even above healthcare. Although salary is important to job seekers, and no company can compete for IT talent with salary bands below market value, an increasing trend among IT talent, particularly new job seekers, is workplace flexibility. It allows them the freedom to structure their own working hours, which in turn, can offer a better work/life balance, as well as the time for additional job opportunities. Hiring managers who wrap flexibility into their employee value proposition should stand out in the competitive IT job market.

“The industry is still a seller’s market and provides a target-rich environment for recent graduates entering the landscape. However, new graduates should still expect to be offered the types of junior/entry level roles where they’re primarily being asked to maintain, update or fix currently deployed software programs,” said TEKsystems Research Manager Jason Hayman. “This is most likely why organizations are showing a heavy preference for generalized degrees over specialized, where in the future they can develop the skill set of a capable individual to fit their own specialized requirements. Newly graduated job seekers may be surprised that it’s not about the name recognition of an expensive school or a cutting edge degree that gets you in the door, it’s getting your hands dirty prior to graduation and making yourself a valuable member of whatever team or project you get the opportunity to work on.”

TEKsystems’ Jason Hayman is available for additional commentary. For more information about the survey, or to schedule an interview, please contact Nathan Bowen at nabowen@TEKsystems.com.

About TEKsystems

People are at the heart of every successful business initiative. At TEKsystems, an Allegis Group company, we understand people. Every year we deploy more than 80,000 IT professionals at 6,000 client sites across North America, Europe and Asia. Our deep insights into IT human capital management enable us to help our clients achieve their business goals–while optimizing their IT workforce strategies. We provide IT staffing solutions and IT services to help our clients plan, build and run their critical business initiatives. Through our range of quality-focused delivery models, we meet our clients where they are, and take them where they want to go, the way they want to get there.