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Recent college graduates or those nearing graduation might not find the job market as difficult as its been in the past few years.
Officials at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry said their most recent numbers indicate many of their students are employed, leaving them optimistic about prospects for students who graduated in December or will graduate this spring.
Rachel Hoover, director of career services at USCB, said that a recent survey of students who graduated in May or December 2011 indicated that about 87 percent had found jobs.
Of those working, 41 percent were in jobs related to their degrees.
"I was really happy (with the results)," Hoover said. "Now, some of them are still working toward degree-related jobs, but at least they've got something."
Hoover's survey was sent to about 200 students who were nearing graduation last year. About half responded.
At TCL, Matteel Jones, vice president for student affairs, said the school's job-placement numbers also are encouraging.
The most recent numbers available were for students who graduated between July 2009 and June 2010.
Although data didn't indicate how many of the 317 students who responded were employed in their fields of study, only eight of the school's 23programs had less than 90 percent of their graduates employed or continuing in education, Jones said.
Most of those eight were programs either affected by the economic downturn, such as fields related to construction, or had so few graduates that the numbers were easily skewed, such as a class of two with one person unemployed.
Unemployment numbers are falling -- at least modestly -- at the local, state and national levels, recent figures indicate.
In November, unemployment in Beaufort County was down to 7.4 percent from 8.2 in October.
In South Carolina, the unemployment rate has dropped from 10.5 percent in October to 9.9 percent in November according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Nationally, unemployment was down to 8.5 percent in December from 9 percent in October.
Those with degrees fare even better, U.S. Department of Labor statistics show.
The nationwide unemployment rate for people 25 and older with some college education or associate degrees is declining: It was 8.3 percent in October but fell to 7.6 percent in November.
The unemployment rate for those with bachelor's degrees has held steady at about 4 percent since July.
Both Hoover and Jones said the skills and programs offered at their schools make students more attractive hires.
Business or human services degrees -- two degrees that Hoover said were reporting high numbers of employment -- are internship intensive, so students get real-world experience and a chance to network, she said.
Jones said the high levels of job placement could be because TCL studies the local market to make sure there is demand for graduates of the programs it offers.Jones also said many students at TCL might already be working in the fields in which they major and are looking to advance their careers.
That was true for Trisha Brubaker, a Bluffton police officer whose degree in criminal justice technology from TCL has boosted her rank to corporal and landed her a detective job.
"I knew if I wanted to excel in my career, I needed to have a degree," she said. "It shows you went the extra mile and you were more determined."
James Corbin, a server administrator at Beaufort Memorial Hospital who studied industrial electronics at TCL, also said the degree and certifications from TCL helped him switch careers.
"You may have the skills, and you may have the experience, but until you have a couple of classes, (employers) aren't going to look at you," Corbin said.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.