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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


More students seek public sector work

College graduates are increasingly looking for degree paths to prepare them for public sector work, but the end of federal stimulus funds is putting those positions in jeopardy.

The number of college graduates working for the federal government increased 16 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to an analysis of the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. Employment in nonprofit organizations also increased by 11 percent during the same time period.

Brint Milward, director of the School of Government and Public Policy, said the number of students interested in majors that prepare them for positions in the public sector has risen since the school’s split from the Eller College of Management in April 2009.

Milward said that the number of public administration undergraduates has increased by more than 200 in the last two years, from 305 to more than 500 today, and the number of political science majors has also increased from 900 to 1,200. The number of graduate students working toward a master’s in public administration almost doubled over the same time period, from close to 50 two years ago to 96 today.

“”There’s no doubt that more people are asking for the major,”” Milward said. “”Whether there are more opportunities, I don’t know.””

According to Bill Ruggirello, assistant director of UA Career Services, more private sector companies tend to try and reach out to students via career fairs.

“”We have a couple of government types that come (to career fairs), but it in no way compares to the private groups,”” he said.

Ruggirello does not know yet if this trend continued this year. The annual career services survey to determine where students received employment will occur two weeks before graduation for students and about a month or two after graduation for employers.

He said that the job market has tightened in both the public and private sectors during the last couple of years, a factor Milward also addressed.

“”The numbers sound right,”” he said in reference to the survey. “”But it is important to note that, that is looking backward, not forward.””

Out of the top five employers in Southern Arizona, four either are public sector companies or private companies that derive revenue from public funds. Raytheon is Southern Arizona’s largest employer, followed by three public sector companies: the University of Arizona, the state of Arizona and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The college class of 2011 is going into a job market with a starting salary higher than its recent predecessors, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that connects career service departments to employers,.  

“”The Southern Arizona economy is dominated by the public sector,”” Milward said. “”Would I rather work for the parks departments or work at Dillard’s? I don’t know. I’ve worked in universities and government and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I think it depends on that individual.””

Milward said federal stimulus funds, which allowed local governments to retain workers in the last two years, will soon end and that will affect whether or not those same public sector opportunities will still be available.

“”It’s really striking to see how the public sector employs Arizonans,”” he said, “”but demand in the market going forward, that’s a little hard to predict.””

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