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Looking for Work? Try Higher Education - Job Openings Jumped in the First Half of 2010

According to second quarter 2010 reports from HigherEdJobs.com, the number of advertised jobs in academia experienced 'significant growth' during the first half of this year. The reports also indicate that the higher education sector has experienced some growth over the recession in spite of the decline in the rest of the U.S. job market.

Job Openings

Academia Sees Growth in New Jobs

HigherEdJobs.com, a job listing and career resource site for academia, releases the Higher Education Employment Report each quarter. The reports examine trends in academic employment, including the number of current jobs, job openings, types of employment and how the current employment situation compares to historical patterns.

The second quarter (Q2) report of 2010 has some good news for job seekers: Job postings in the academic sector jumped 36% over last year in the first half (H1) of 2010, after dropping almost the same amount in 2009. The organization does caution that this may be more reflective of a staffing adjustment period for colleges and universities as they react to fluctuations in the economy than a 'real' burst of new positions. Nevertheless, hiring patterns since the beginning of the recession suggest that things may continue to move in a positive direction.

Patterns in Higher Education Jobs Compared to Over U.S. Labor Patterns from HigherEdJobs.com

From the Higher Education Employment Report Second Quarter, 2010, page 3, by HigherEdJobs.

Looking back to the first six months of the economic downturn, HigherEdJobs found that academe has steadily outperformed other sectors of the job market. From the first half of 2008 through H1 2010, employment in higher education grew by 4.2%, or about 68,000 jobs. Over the same period, overall employment in the U.S. dropped by 5.6%, or about 7.7 million jobs.

Still, members of the higher education community felt the pain of the struggling job market. One of the key ways that academia managed to hold onto positions was by relying more and more on part-time employment since 2008. Although individual conditions vary, part-time employment tends to mean lower net pay, fewer benefits and less job security. But H1 numbers from 2010 suggest that this trend may be shifting. The ratio of part-time to full-time job postings in higher ed appears to have peaked in the stretch from late 2009 to early 2010 and may now be moderating or even declining. Only time will tell if this quarter's numbers reflect a true shift back to full-time employment, but it does suggest that now is a good time to intensify your higher education job search.

Faculty and Administrative Staff

Employment Trends are Relatively Stable in Higher Ed

Another effect of the economic downturn on academia was a tendency to freeze hiring among administrative and staff employees. These positions have frequently been left vacant over the past two years, causing the ratio of faculty to non-faculty job postings to climb since the recession began. This is another trend that appears to be reversing, as the ratio of open faculty to non-faculty jobs has declined during the H1 2010. This reflects historical patterns from the years before the recession, when academic faculty hiring tended to drop during the first two quarters of the year.

In fact, while the number of new job postings has been fairly volatile during the recession, the number of actual jobs in higher education has tended to follow steady historical patterns. For example, the number of academic jobs in June 2010 was 2.5% higher than in June 2009, which was 2.3% higher than in June 2008. And from 2005 to 2008, June's year-over-year growth rate only ranged 3.3 percentage points, from 1.5 to 4.8 percent.

By contrast, overall U.S. employment patterns have experienced much more change in the same time period. Changes in employment figures for June have ranged from a growth of 1.8% in 2006 to a decline of 4.8% in 2009, a fluctuation of 6.6 percentage points. That's double the shift in higher education. HigherEdJobs notes that this finding is particularly surprising given that the job market as a whole is 90 times larger than academia, which should make it less vulnerable to significant variation. As a result, the organization concludes that higher education employment has become more stable than overall U.S. employment in recent years.

2-Year School

Community Colleges Respond to Need for Vocational Training

Within higher education, one sector has emerged the strongest: Community colleges. The report shows that job openings at community colleges grew according to both HigherEdJobs and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although community college job postings dropped slightly on the HigherEdJobs.com website between Q2 2009 (21%) and Q2 2010 (18%), the number of actual postings at community colleges grew 7.1% sequentially and 30.5% year-over-year in the current quarter.

HigherEdJobs suggests that this growth may be due to the unique role that community colleges play in career training. Many policymakers have pointed to a lack of education, job skills and relevant 'new economy' training as the source of persistent unemployment this year for large portions of the labor market. Community colleges have historically been at the front lines of vocational education and training. Although programs are relatively short at these institutions, they offer a 'vital link' between individuals and the labor market, providing targeted education for young people just entering the job world and retraining for workers seeking to advance in their careers. HigherEdJobs hypothesizes that the growth in job postings at 2-year institutions may reflect a growing demand for their services.

This theory is supported by previous studies which have found that the recent surge in college enrollment has been dominated by community colleges and trade schools. The Pew Research Center found that 2-year colleges had the largest freshmen enrollment increase (11%) of all types of academic institutions in the beginning of the recession. Trade schools, which typically offer vocational training in under-2-year programs, experienced a 5% freshmen enrollment growth at the same time.

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