Which college grads have improved job prospects?

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(MoneyWatch) Good news, recent college graduates: Rising employer demand for people with a bachelor's degree in areas such as marketing, finance, human resources and advertising is expected to boost hiring for new grads by 5 percent in the next year.

At the same time, majors that have generated stronger employer demand in recent years, such as engineering and computer science, are expected to see weaker growth. So predicts Michigan State University's Collegiate Employment Research Institute in its most recent annual report on recruiting trends.

The big surprise is this year's survey of nearly 4,300 employers from across the country was the strong demand for graduates with two-year, or associate, degrees -- that's up more than 30 percent. Favored degrees in this category include applied engineering, healthcare technology, business and computer science. The findings mirrors other research that suggests associate degrees have been outpacing four-year degrees in job growth for the past several months.

By contrast, the report brings less cheery news for newly minted MBAs. After three years of employment growth for people with advanced business degrees, total MBA positions are estimated to decline six percent over the next year. The shrinking job market for MBAs comes at a time when more Americans are earning these degrees. MBA grad from top business school programs can still expect to find good opportunities, according to the institute, but those with little professional experience may have more difficulty finding a position.

Despite the projected uptick in hiring in certain fields, employers generally remain caution in their hiring plan. The report authors attribute that to concerns about the potential impact of the European financial crisis and the looming "fiscal cliff" in Washington on the U.S. economy, as well as earlier uncertainty about the outcome of this year's presidential election.

One of best things new grads can do to help their job hunt? Be realistic. The "most troubling aspect of this year's report is the consistent and damning rhetoric from employers that students' sense of entitlement, expectations and level of preparedness is totally out of sync with the reality of the workplace," said Phil Gardner, director of the Employment Research Institute. "These bachelor's degree students who graduate this year entered college at the onset of the recession and have had plenty of time to be coached about their expectations, encouraged to engage in professional experiences and prepared to handle their first job experience. Yet student remain as naive as always about focusing on their future."

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