Top five NAU majors include education, HRM
On May 11, 2,796 undergraduate students and 901 graduate students will graduate. Each will walk away with their prized diploma and the responsibility of entering the career field of their choice. The top five most common degrees earned by undergraduate students this semester are elementary education, biology, hotel and restaurant management, nursing and criminology and criminal justice.
Karen Pugliesi, vice provost for Academic Affairs, attributes elementary education’s popularity to NAU’s history as a teaching university.
“Elementary education has a long, historical legacy on campus,” Pugliesi said. “This campus was a normal university, after all. Also, teacher preparation is something that NAU does in a big way, meaning that we have a lot of programs, not just elementary education . . . That doesn’t surprise me that that would be a big major year after year.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hopeful teachers can expect to see a 17 percent increase in job availability in the next eight years. This type of increase is considered average by the BLS and is attributed to “both declines in student–teacher ratios and increases in enrollment.” For the 220 students graduating with their degree in elementary education, this is good news. There is a slightly higher demand for special education teachers, which is another popular degree at NAU with 46 graduating students.
While many students worry about finding a job after college, senior elementary education and Spanish major Colleen McGillicuddy, who is a Gold Axe recipient, has other concerns.
“I’m not nervous about the job market, because no matter where you go you need teachers,” McGillicuddy said. “Even if I can’t get a teaching job right away, there are always restaurant jobs. . . I’m not nervous about getting a job; I am a little nervous to be done with school because I feel like my rubric for life is now gone. [In school] you can do whatever you want, but after, I don’t know. It’s kind of scary to not know your boundaries.”
According to Pugliesi, the biology program is popularity can be attributed to its diversity and talented faculty. 290 students will be graduating from the biology department this semester.
“It’s a great department that has degrees ranging to the PhD with a lot of very interesting research programs,” Pugliesi said. “Some get a lot of national attention, as do the faculty. It’s a great undergraduate program that affords students lots of opportunities for research and I think that’s one of the reasons . . . it attracts students. Also, being that biology encompasses so many sub-areas, there is a rich array of career opportunities. They can move toward a health related career path, [like] biomedical science, or something where a student pursues a post graduate degree in something like med school or physical therapy at the graduate level. It’s a pathway to post-baccalaureate professional degrees of various sorts.”
Mary Zuniga, a senior biology major and another Gold Axe winner, said she believes working in university labs made her more competitive in the job market.
“NAU has given me the opportunity to expand my research skills, which is the area where I plan to apply for jobs,” Zuniga said. “Because I have had the opportunity to work in research laboratories related to my job interests at NAU, I have become a relatively competent applicant in that area.”
Biology careers are predicted to increase 14 percent, which is also considered an average rate. Because positions in this field are competitive, the BLS recommends applicants have experience in lab work before applying.
Hotel and Restaurant Management
The BLS states that careers in both hotel management and restaurant management will decrease in the next eight years. However, while the number of positions will decrease, having a college degree in restaurant management will give students an advantage when applying for higher-end establishments. The same applies for hotels.
“We are situated in a state where hospitality and tourism is a big industry and our program is recognized nationally as a very good program,” Pugliesi said. “So, I’m not surprised a lot of students come here and there are a lot of neat opportunities for students to pursue different areas within that international hospitality and tourism. We have fantastic new facilities, like the new test kitchen. We have a partnership going with Drury Inn where our students get fabulous professional experiences while they get their degree.”
Haley Zurek, a senior HRM major, will be putting her degree and knowledge to work directly after college.
“I have accepted an offer with Pappas Restaurants in Austin, Texas,” Zurek said. “I am so blessed to have gotten a job offer because I know graduating seniors are fighting for spots out there. The economy scares me because it is worse than when we grew up when stuff was so much cheaper. But there is nothing I can personally do about it, so I just have to do the best I can and be smart.”
An increase in retiring nurses presents a 22 percent rise in jobs over the next eight years, according to the Bureau. The increase in job availability may also be attributed to the need for nurses in outpatient care centers and nursing homes as well as hospitals.
Famous for its competitive nature, NAU’s nursing program attracts students nationwide. Nursing students must work hard for their certifications, whether it be on campus or at anyone of NAU’s statewide, or online, locations. Pugliesi remains confident the high demand for nurses will allow nursing majors, but not all students are as certain.
“To be honest, yes I am nervous,” Dennis Kan, a nursing major who recently won the Gold Axe award and the President’s Prize, said. “I’m excited to graduate . . . but after college I have to worry about taking my board exam, finding a job and finding a place to live.”
Nonetheless, Kan remains confident in the university’s program.
I feel like NAU has got good plans, and especially in my program in nursing,” Kan said. “It’s a really good plan because we do a lot of management. At other schools they focus on all bookwork. NAU does both management and clinical. I know how to be a clinical person and a scientific person.”
Criminology and Criminal Justice
“Criminology and criminal justice is a very strong undergraduate program,” Pugliesi said. “Law enforcement in all its forms . . . there are a lot of opportunities. It could lead to a pathway to law or many other auxiliary programs within the criminal justice system. [CCJ] has a very strong reputation nationally as well as on the part of our students who elect to major in it.”
Students have the options of entering law school, law enforcement, immigration, detective work and many more career fields. The BLS said most legal careers are growing at an average rate, between 10 and 20 percent.
Justin Strong, a senior criminology and criminal justice major, said he mapped out his future and is confident he can reach his lofty goals.
“I’m not nervous; I know I’m going to grad school and I want to pursue my Ph.D so I know I have a lot more schooling to do,” Strong said. “I have a direction. I’m not worried about [the job market] because I’m not in school to get a job, I’m in school because I want to learn. The job market is not a concern for me.”