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Release: Immediate

UI College of Engineering graduates welcome signing bonuses

IOWA CITY, Iowa ­- If you think "signing bonuses" are the exclusive domain of seven-foot-tall basketball players and other professional athletes, think again.

When University of Iowa College of Engineering students leave campus following noon Saturday, Dec. 19 graduation ceremonies, many will begin their careers with sizable cash bonuses, just for committing to work for some of America's most growth-oriented, technology-based companies.

According to figures released by the UI Engineering Career Services office, more than 50 percent of job offers reported by May 1998 UI bachelor's degree engineering graduates included bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $8,900. Starting salary offers were lucrative, too, with high salary offers ranging from $43,500 to $53,000 and median-range offers falling between $35,665 and $45,050.

According to Cathy Colony Bunnell, director of engineering career services, the signing bonuses and high starting salaries reflect the high demand nationally for quality engineers, with the best reaping the greatest rewards. "The students getting the highest offers are those with the greatest experience, so those with company-paid internships tend to get the best salaries," she says. "If students want to be competitive, they need to have held internships."

She adds that electrical and mechanical engineers are most in demand, but it is a good time for all engineers, as indicated by the recent development in signing bonuses. "Three years ago we saw very few bonuses, so we didn't even record them in our surveys," she says. "We have seen much bigger increases in bonuses the last couple of years."

In addition to external demands for engineers, the steadily rising quality of UI engineering students may be playing a role in the growth of engineering salaries and bonuses. The average UI engineering freshman this fall had an average ACT composite score of 28.6, up nearly a point from the previous year. Jane Dorman, director of engineering admissions and scholarships, says that although such figures aren't routinely shared among institutions, the current UI freshman average ACT score is probably very near the top of similar scores recorded at other Big Ten engineering colleges. The Big Ten is one of the premier conferences for engineering education, with all 10 engineering programs, including the University of Iowa's, ranked among the top 50 programs in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report..

So far, all this interest by business and industry in attracting UI engineering graduates seems to be benefiting the university and the state of Iowa. Bunnell says that out of 136 May 1998 UI bachelor's degree engineering graduates who responded to an employment survey, about 50 percent accepted jobs in Iowa, while Illinois, the next closest state, attracted 28 percent.