Montgomery Advertiser

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ At 13, Brianna Moore wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up. Seven years later, she’s on track to graduate with a degree in computer information systems.

She still loves animals, but the realities of the economy and the job market helped send her in a different direction.

“Anything related to medicine is going to take a while,” said Moore, a rising senior at Alabama State University. “My second love is for computers, and I wanted to do something that could get me employed quickly.”

Studies show she made the right choice.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 69 percent of computer science majors in spring of 2013 had at least one job offer before they graduated. That was the most of any major in the survey.

A separate study by financial advisory site WalletHub this month looked at the best entry-level jobs based on factors ranging from starting salary to future growth. Six of the top 10 jobs in the study were tech-related.

Andrea Presley landed one of those top 10 jobs when she was hired as a programmer by MediSys in Montgomery before she even finished her computer and information science degree at Faulkner University this spring.

“My dad is a programmer, so I just grew up learning,” Presley said. “And with this major, there’s jobs everywhere.”

Most of Alabama’s college graduates won’t find it so easy.

Figures from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education show that the state’s most popular majors are ones that rarely lead to good entry-level jobs, including nursing, psychology, education and biology.

State colleges issued more than 3,500 bachelor’s and associates nursing degrees in 2012-2013, twice as many as any other major, according to state figures. Only 241 people got computer and information sciences degrees in that time.

Robin Ricks of Workforce Walker Personnel said central Alabama also continues to search for more engineers, across a range of specialties, and that jobs are waiting for people right out of school.

“Those are some of the most necessary disciplines on the Montgomery level,” she said. “Those are generally disciplines that the training you get in school prepares you well for the job market.”

Still, you can’t shoehorn a student into a certain career path just because it’s an area with a need, said Marie Ottinger, who counsels students at Faulkner. She said the school offers an assessment test that gives students a better idea of the areas where they might succeed based on their skills and interests, then shows them potential jobs in that field and what kind of education they need to qualify.

“Some start out thinking they want to teach, and it’s different from what they thought,” Ottinger said. “Some people say they didn’t realize they’d have to take that much math or that much science for a certain degree.”

Ottinger said the best test is to get out into the workplace and see what it’s like, whether it’s through volunteering or internships.

“If you think you want to be an educator, go read to the students,” she said. “If you want to be in criminal justice, go down to the police station.”

Ricks and Linda Browder of Warren Averett Staffing and Recruiting both said that internships are crucial, and that getting any kind of industry certification while in college can help clear the path to the best job.

Browder said she often speaks to high school students as part of a work shadow program and tries to get across the realities of the job market before they even get to college.

“I tell them to choose something you like, but also something that is going to be marketable,” Browder said.