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Where the jobs are, and aren’t, is changing for college graduates

Nursing is “hotter than ever.” Dentistry is also a hot career, as are careers in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, according to Peg Ferguson, who oversees recruiting efforts for the nine colleges at the University of Rhode Island.

Since the events of Sept. 11, a number of career fields have been growing considerably, said Ferguson, URI’s manager of employer services in the Career Services Office.

“Some of the things that have changed since Sept. 11 are the fields that are real hot,” Ferguson said. Those include careers in the health-care industry, including nursing and dentistry. “We’re even seeing some rebounding with speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.”

Careers “in all areas of government” have also picked up, Ferguson said. “And I would add to that, law enforcement and security and technology security.”

But Ferguson said that the job picture is not necessarily rosy, and that potential hirees, whether just entering the workforce, or changing careers, need to “step outside the box.”

The key will be how to sell your skills, she said.

Before Sept. 11, the National Association of College Employers was predicting a 19 percent downturn in college hiring. After Sept. 11, “the actuals that came back” several weeks ago “were 39 percent,” she said.

She advises, “If I’m a sociology major, maybe I should look at a career in security. If the jobs aren’t there, maybe I need to look at products oriented toward security.” Or try to fit one’s skills into careers in government or health care.

In the past year, Ferguson says, her job has changed “from being a disseminator of job opportunities … to being an educator on where the markets are” and how to focus on them.

This year, Ferguson said, URI has been taking a new tack in organizing job fairs around career tracks.

“We’ve been very successful at organizing job fairs around careers in nursing, careers in technology, careers in engineering, careers in human services, government and nonprofit.”

The URI Career Services Office is also going into the world of technology to assist its students in job-hunting, Ferguson said. “All of our students are registered on a Web site called Beacon, which is managed by “It’s a great way for us to bring career opportunities to students, and disseminating that information for them.”