said. "It is definitely like a bittersweet kind of moment." Scott said he has a summer job lined up before he gets serious about looking for a position in broadcasting.

Scott, of Omaha, sounded optimistic. "I'm really excited to see where I go from here," he said.

Mackenzie Griffith, a UNL graduate from Virginia, had a double major in sociology and global studies. She has pursued jobs in Washington, D.C., but nothing has clicked.

She was a dynamic undergraduate researcher, said her mentor, sociology professor Regina We rum. "She's really good."

Griffith has decided to go to Chile in July to teach English for several months. "I've kind of just been relieved to have five more months extended on the job search," she said. Griffith said she might end up getting a master's degree.

Some students have jobs lined up. Natalie Knott of Louisville, Nebraska, will graduate soon from Hastings College.

Knott, who double-majored in business administration and marketing in her three years at Hastings, said she had 18 job interviews (some companies interviewed her more than once) this year. She received two offers and recently accepted a job with NRC Health, a Lincoln-based consumer researcher for hospitals.

"It's such a relief to have it done," she said of the job hunt. "I've had a plan and a vision of what I wanted to do."

The Nebraska Labor Department estimated that the state will have 21,410 annual openings through 2026 in high-skill, highwage, high-demand jobs requiring at least a bachelor's degree.

This spring, the United States' unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent, Nebraska's to 2.8 percent and Iowa's to 2.4 percent. That means there's a comparatively small supply of prospective employees available.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported last month that hiring of college graduates will go up 10.7 percent this year from last year. That's the first double-digit projection in the spring since 2012, the organization said.

The highest-paid occupations are in engineering, computer science, math and sciences, and business, NACE said.

A report last fall by the job-market analytics company Burning Glass Technologies said science, technology, engineering and math majors generally outperform other majors in finding good jobs. But gaining workforce skills in college, through internships and jobs, can help any graduate's job search, the report said.

Tucker McHugh, a communication studies and sport management double major at Nebraska Wesleyan University, had an internship a year ago at Lincoln's Opendorse. Opendorse is a sports marketing company.

McHugh, who will graduate this spring, interviewed with that company in March and won a job. McHugh, from Malcolm, Nebraska, said he had three or four interviews with other organizations. "The process was a lot of hard work, but it was really enjoyable to make so many connections," he said. "I feel very fortunate. And I really can't wait to go back and join the squad full time."

The Burning Glass report said employers see value in graduates not only in STEM fields, but also in liberal arts and other majors as well.

Students can succeed in the job hunt by showing communication and critical thinking skills, said the report, "Majors that Matter." The report called the choice of majors "crucial" but also noted that "degrees are not destiny."

"I do believe in the value of a liberal arts education," said Connie Kreikemeier, head of Midland University's personal and career development center. But students with majors in those areas — philosophy, history, English and others — need to pair them with internships, part-time jobs and evidence of service and leadership, Kreikemeier said.

Aaron Estes, associate director of academic and career services at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, said liberal arts majors can show "soft skills" that others lack.

NACE said last month that a survey of businesses found a need for these "career-readiness competencies," among others — problem-solving, teamwork, work ethic, oral and written communications, and digital technology.

Joe Hayes, assistant director of employer relations at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said he knows that many STEM and business-related professionals are in demand, but this is a job market that favors most graduates.

Bosses are "looking for talent, and they're willing to train," Hayes said.

Career directors said their job fairs have boomed. UNL's Watts said his university has moved the fair from the city campus student union to Pinnacle Bank Arena because so many businesses and organizations come.

Creighton University had a waiting list for businesses for its career fair last fall, said Jeremy Fisher, Creighton's career center director. And the Iowa State agriculture career day drew 277 companies and organizations, which tied the Cyclones' record, said Mike Gaul, head of career services for Iowa State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Even though agriculture commodity prices are low and tariff trade conflicts boil, Gaul said if students make finding a job a priority, they will succeed. "It's been a good year for us," he said. "Young talent is always in high demand."

Both UNL and Creighton officials said they have heard of students accepting a job, and then turning it down for another offer — a practice that career officials discourage.

Katherine Consola, a Creighton grad from Los Angeles, knew she would go to graduate school. Consola will pursue a master's degree in Egyptology at the University of Memphis, then possibly a doctorate. Her leap into the job market probably is years away.

She dreams of leading her own artifacts "dig" in Egypt but knows the competition will be intense and the opportunities few for that work and for jobs in academia. "Mymarket is going to be very difficult to break into," she said.

Sean Wagner, who majored in cybersecurity at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said he is lucky that experts in his major are in demand.

Wagner, an Omahan, said he will spend two years working as a civilian at the Defense Information Systems Agency at Fort Meade in Maryland.

Tanaka Nyamupfukudza, a spring graduate in psychology from UNO, said he will go back to his native Africa for a few months to recharge. "I know I need a break, just for a bit," he said. Then he will enter the job market.

Bailee Knott (not related to Natalie Knott) works for the Grand Island freight brokerage GIX Logistics. Knott graduated from UNK three years ago, so she isn't far removed from the Class of 2019.

Her job is talent acquisition and culture coordinator at her company. And the company is looking for college grads for sales, customer relations and other jobs.

"We really don't care what their degree is in," Knott said. "We're more concerned with fit."

Her job experience while in college was at Runza. One day she downplayed the value of that job when it was time to jump into the job market after graduation. A professor corrected her — working at Runza means a student can manage time and juggle priorities, the professor said.

Knott agreed that it showed something else, too, that employers value — grit.

rick.ruggles@owh.com, 402-444-1123

STARTING SALARY PROJECTIONS FOR THE CLASS OF 2019

1. Engineering — $69,188, up 4.0%

2. Computer science — $67,539, up 2.3%

3. Math and sciences — $62,177, up 0.5%

4. Business — $57,657, up 1.7%

5. Social sciences — $57,310, up 1.1%

6. Humanities — $56,651, down 0.1%

7. Agriculture and natural resources — $55,750, up 4.1%

8. Communications — $52,056, up 1.2%

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers Winter 2019 Salary Survey

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