A strong economy is translating into the best job market for graduating architects from Mississippi State University (MSU) that has been seen in years.
“We have a lot of interest,” said Janine Davis, office manager, fifth-year MSU architecture program, Jackson. “I have people calling me from out of state and in state probably once a week looking for graduates. I think the market is very good right now for the architecture interns. Most of the firms tell me they have a lot of work, and they need the interns in there helping them. The market has really been good for the past several years. I have been here for 20 years. I have been amazed at how many jobs there are for the students.”
The architecture degree program at MSU includes four years at the Starkville campus and a final year in Jackson.
Luther Epting, director of MSU Career Services Center, said this is the best year for architecture grads they have had in the recent past.
“We are seeing good demand for graduates in all areas,” Epting said. “This is something we haven’t seen this strong all century. The first five years of this century were slower from a recruiting standpoint. Things seem to be picking up. It is a great time to be a college senior in almost any area. Demand isn’t the same across all disciplines, but we are seeing stronger demand across all disciplines than perhaps we have ever seen. That certainly speaks well for graduates who come out in May and hopefully for those in December and the future.”
Opportunity in state, around South
Some of the augmented demand for architecture graduates is related to increased construction activity, some fueled by post-Katrina recovery. It is created opportunity in Mississippi and surrounding states.
“The building industry has been very good for this past year,” Epting said. “It has been good for the construction industry overall. “
Along with increased demand for architects, the School of Architecture, Art and Design at MSU is also seeing more recruiting for interior designers. They are seeing more interest for interior designers and architects as interns, coops and graduates.
MSU has a co-op experience that allows students to gain experience with career-oriented internships.
“The demand is good for all three ways students can get into architecture firms, as interns, co-ops and graduates,”
Epting said. “In fact, there is more demand than there are students available.”
Becky Grava Davis, senior coordinator for the Cooperative Education Program at the MSU Career Center, said if firms are hiring lots of co-ops, that generally means business is good.
“It has a ripple effect,” Davis said. “If businesses are doing lots of hiring for co-ops, business is good and lots of business is going on. Right now the economy is improving especially in the construction area with all the rebuilding on the Coast that has a ripple effect. Nationwide it seems the economy is improving, so we are seeing an increase in the number of firms looking for undergrad students to fill entry-level positions.”
Davis said there has been a marked increase in demand for students eligible to co-op. She estimates there were twice as many firms at the architecture job fair this year as seen four years ago.
“That is one indication the economy has improved so much there are more jobs available in that area,” she said. “We have more firms than we have students to fill positions for co-op students. We do find that students who co-op for one year aren’t entry level anymore when they graduate. They have already passed that point. They are more attractive to employers because they have practical work experience that they didn’t get in the classroom. They are going to start out at a higher salary and they are more marketable. They are generally the ones who get more job offers than the students who have not co-oped or interned.”
‘Mature and focused’
Davis said sometimes parents don’t favor their child becoming a co-op for a year because it takes them six years to graduate. But it doesn’t take any longer to become a registered architect because co-op students start to earn credits towards registration. “That is the argument we present to parents who say, ‘I just want my child to graduate’,” Davis said. “It isn’t making things longer, but sort of shifting things around. What professors tell me is they can tell the difference in a student who has co-oped. They come back more mature and focused, and do better on senior projects because they have that real-world experience. It makes them marketable all over country.”
MSU doesn’t just place student co-ops in state. Currently it has co-op students in Washington, D.C., Boston, New York and Denver.
“It isn’t just in the Southeast where we have students in co-op jobs,” Davis said. “There is a demand for our students all over the country, and I think is in part because of the very fine teaching staff. They train them well.”
For more information on the School of Architecture, Art and Design, see the Web site http://www.sarc.msstate.edu/.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.