Jobs for the Class of 2019: Nursing is one of the most in-demand jobs for college grads.

Gabrielle Vascos feels right at home in the Delaware State University medical lab.

Clad in blue scrubs and wearing a stethoscope, Vascos demonstrates on a medical dummy how to check a patient’s heartbeat.

“I chose nursing as a career because I love to learn about the body,” the 28-year-old nursing grad said. “I love serving others. Also, my parents are nurses, and I watched and listened to them, and that helped.”

Nursing is one of the top in-demand jobs in the state for the class of 2019, when it comes to getting a job where a bachelor’s degree is generally required for most openings.

The average entry wage for a full-time registered nurse is $58,178, said George Sharpley, who works in the Delaware Department of Labor as chief for the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information.

A heart to help

Vascos, who graduated with a bachelor’s in nursing May 11, will begin working in July in a critical care residency at Christiana Hospital in Newark.

After her residency ends in January, Vascos said she’s guaranteed a nursing job with Christiana Care Health System, the parent company.

“I feel very blessed. It feels like my hard work paid off,” she said. “Christiana Hospital is very innovative. They’re the only level one trauma center in Delaware.”

The critical care residency is highly competitive, Vascos said. In the program, nursing grads work with professionals, learning how to care for critically-ill patients.

This year the critical care residency had 170 applicants and hired eight.

Christiana Care employs about 12,000 people around the state, making it the largest private business employer in Delaware, said Pamela Ridgeway, vice president of talent there.

“The key qualities we look for when hiring college grads are willingness to learn, adaptability, ability to showcase their dedication to caring for others, a passion for excellence and a desire to grow in knowledge and skills,” Ridgeway said.

Agnes Richardson, chairwoman of DSU’s nursing department, said the department has a good history of its students gaining employment.

“We instill a confidence and prepare our students with a quality education. Our curriculum is solid,” Richardson said. “We have a faculty that possesses the expertise to deliver the type of quality preparation the students need.”

Vascos has what it takes to thrive in her field, she said.

“She’s caring and has an intellectual capacity to be able to transfer knowledge into application,” Richardson said. "And she’s a very kind person who interacts well with others.”

The nursing department has a clinical partnership with Christiana Care and Bayhealth, where students participate in a preceptorship. Tracy Harpe, nursing department clinical coordinator, said a preceptorship is a three-week program where students shadow a professional nurse and do exactly what they do.

“It’s an opportunity for them to bridge theory to practice,” Harpe said.

Hard need for software developers

Software development is a hot job for grads, with entry-level pay averaging $75,109, said Sharpley, who works in the Delaware Department of Labor as chief for the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information.

DSU grad Khiara MacElree, 22, hasn’t had to stress over finding work because she accepted a job back in the fall.

Her salary will be $70,000 when she begins working in Florida in July as a product lifecycle support management specialist for Northrop Grumman, a company specializing in developing global aerospace and defense technology.

MacElree said graduating with a job in her field “put me in a good head space that I didn’t have to scramble to find employment the last two semesters.” She got the job offer after landing an internship at Northrop last summer.

The 22-year-old from New Castle said her duties at Northrop will be working with an internal ticketing system where she’ll help her co-workers solve issues they might encounter with their software.

During the internship, she was working on black box testing, where her team pretended to be customers and tried to figure out vulnerabilities the software might have.

She decided to major in information technology because it seemed challenging, its jobs are high in demand and there’s a lack of black women in the field, she said.

“But in the future, as young girls see girls like me going into the field, I hope it will change,” she said.

Student debt ‘ridiculous’

Even though her job will pay a $70,000 salary, she’s racked up $28,000 in student loans, MacElree said. Her goal is to dish out $1,000 per month and pay off her debt in three years.

Student debt is a major problem, with Americans owing more than $1.5 trillion, according to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

“I think it’s very unfortunate,” MacElree said. “Many of us are going into fields where we won’t be able to pay it back so easily.”

Vascos said she owes over $50,000. She plans to get rid of her debt in under a decade, but something has to change, she said.

“It’s ridiculous,” Vascos said. “There are barriers to getting a good quality education. For most of the country, you end up in debt to have a better life.”