A matter of degrees - Albuquerque Journal

A matter of degrees

in the 2018-19 school year, New Mexico sent 850 students to other states and those students saved almost $9.9 million versus out-of-state tuition.

Study what you want, because New Mexico labor needs range from nurses and engineers to accountants, teachers and other business professionals.

“In a nutshell, I can tell you it is tight,” Silas Peterson, the owner and president of The Hire Firm, a local job placement agency, says of the New Mexico job market. The tighter the labor market, the closer to full employment.

“I’ve been doing this for 15½ years in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and the labor market has never been tighter than it is right now,” he says. “And that’s across the board. For anything you are looking for.”

New Mexico’s economy is doing well, as evidenced by the record-setting tax revenue being collected. And there are jobs available to those with the proper skills, Peterson says.

So what’s the most valuable college degree in the New Mexico labor market right now?

“We don’t approach it that way,” says Laura Valdez, the director of advising strategies at the University of New Mexico. “We don’t want (students) to hate their life just because that was the job that people were hiring for the year they graduated. … The job market is evolving. We want them to have skills that will help them adapt to a workplace.”

Jobs in demand

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions predicts what jobs are going to be in most demand in the coming years, offering some insight into what degrees will be most desired in the near future.

Medical professionals, especially nurses, are in demand across New Mexico.

Nurses are very much in demand. It’s predicted that there will be 1,179 new nursing jobs in the state annually as the field grows 13% statewide from 2016 to 2026, according to the state workforce agency’s website. The average annual salary for a registered nurse is $69,840, according to the state agency’s website.

Bill McCamley, state Cabinet secretary for the Department of Workforce Solutions, says all types of medical professionals are in demand for several reasons.

“The biggest area of need, by far, for the foreseeable future, will be health care. As people in the baby boomer generation retire, the health care need is going to rise,” he says.

“That also means we are going to need more nursing assistants, nurses, medical technicians, general practice docs, surgeons, pharmacists. The whole range of health care professions are going to be an area of critical needs for the state for at least the next decade and probably longer.”

New Mexico offers plenty of opportunities for study in the health field, from the state’s four-year universities to many private colleges and schools.

Teachers are also needed across the state, which is offering scholarship opportunities to college students willing to pursue a career in education.

Business needs

Not interested in teaching or medicine? General business needs are increasing.

New Mexico’s largest employers remain the federal government and state government, followed by Walmart and Sandia National Laboratories, according to New Mexico Partnership, a statewide economic development group.

But there are signs that the economy is diversifying, McCamley says.

“You are seeing the economy expand and you are starting to see the economy diversify,” he says. “That means for businesses to grow you need support services. You need HR managers. You need accountants. You need all those folks in order to get bigger.”

Accounting jobs throughout the state are projected to increase in the coming years.

Workforce Solutions is predicting nearly 700 new accounting and auditor jobs in the state each year as the profession grows about 8% in the next decade. The average annual salary for such jobs is $66,970.

Peterson says that local businesses also have opportunities available for people who earn general bachelor’s degrees.

Some of his firm’s specialties include providing firms with candidates for administrative assistant and human resources positions.

He says a recent college grad can likely find an entry-level job in the local market if they are willing to work for around $40,000 per year.

“A newly minted college grad should be reasonable about their expectations,” Peterson says. “They may be well qualified to enter the workforce but they need to gain some industry knowledge and some work experience.”

The biggest area of need, by far, for the foreseeable future, will be health care. As people in the baby boomer generation retire, the health care need is going to rise.

Helping college freshmen manage their money

More bang for your buck at NM’s colleges and universities

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