Positive Job Outlook for 2014 College Grads

The most desired majors are business, engineering, accounting and computer science.

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Time to move out of mom's basement – there will probably be more job opportunities for new college graduates this year.

Employers said in a survey released Wednesday they plan to increase the number of college graduates they hire this year by nearly 9 percent. 

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According to a survey of 161 employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies overall expect to hire 8.6 percent more graduates from the Class of 2014 than they did from the Class of 2013. That percentage is a slight increase from when employers were polled in the fall, at which time respondents said they expected to increase their hiring by 7.8 percent. It's also up from last year, when employers said they expected to increase their hiring by just 2.1 percent.

"Overall it’s a very optimistic outlook for college graduates this year," says Dan Black, president of NACE and Americas Director of Recruiting at EY. "I think employers are feeling that optimism and that plays out in some of the statistics you’ll see in the report."

Employers plan to hire 8.6 more graduates from the Class of 2014 than they did from the Class of 2013.

Just under half – 48.4 percent – of the employers surveyed said they plan to increase their hiring, while 22 percent said they planned to maintain the number of hires they made last year. Still, 29.4 percent said they plan to decrease the number of graduates they hire. But Black says that distinction could be the difference of a company planning to hire 500 people, and actually hiring 499 or 498. 

Putting the hiring and recruitment process in perspective, Black says Ernst & Young LLP this year will hire just under 7,200 campus recruits, just more than 3,000 of whom will be interns. Overall, nearly two-thirds of employers said they plan on hiring for both full-time and intern positions.

[MORE: Seasonal Surge in New Graduates' Unemployment Is Nothing New]

Employers said they're expecting that more than three-quarters of the graduates they hire (80.8 percent) will have bachelor's degrees. They expect to hire another 18.5 percent with master's degrees other than master's of business administration and 16.2 percent with associate's degrees. 

The most desired college majors for the Class of 2014 are business, engineering, accounting and computer science, according to the survey. Black says those majors have been some of the most sought after for the last several years. Another upside, he says, is that a fair number of students are pursuing degrees in those fields.

One of the reasons there hasn't been much of a shift in the most desired majors, Black says, is that the technical knowledge that goes along with studying in those fields (as opposed to a more general course of study) is very valued. It's even more valued during a weak economy, he adds.

The most sought after majors are business, engineering and accounting.

But employers still highly value "soft skills" such as strong decision-making and problem-solving abilities, which barely edged out communication skills as the most highly rated job skills. Still, nearly all of the in-demand skills and qualities listed – such as the ability to plan, organize and prioritize work, the ability to analyze quantitative data and technical knowledge related to the job – were rated as "very important."

[RANKINGS: U.S. News Best Jobs 2014]

An early outlook for recruiting in the fall and for the Class of 2015 also looks promising, according to the survey. About 43 percent of employers said they expect to hire more new grads during the fall of 2014 than they did in the fall of 2013. Just 3.2 percent said they plan to decrease hiring in the fall.

"So many of these college students, they really have had front row seats to a soft economy for a number of years," Black says. "So to be able to see something positive in terms of job prospects is really very encouraging for the students, and it’s also good news for employers as well. It’s a good indicator of growth and what’s happening in the broader economic market."

Corrected on April 16, 2014: This article previously misstated Dan Black's position at EY.