Where are grads finding great jobs?

In a few weeks, another class of PSU graduates will emerge to start their careers. Fortunately for them, they already live in a great city for entry-level jobs: According to a recent ZipRecruiter survey of 7 million available jobs, Portland is the best on the West Coast, and the third best in the nation. Another job outlook report, from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, says that as in most years, the majors most in demand are engineering, business, computer sciences, accounting and economics.

And many PSU grads are finishing school with jobs already lined up, including Aimee Ritter, Jacob Schoen and Merab Smith:

Aimee Ritter

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Employer: Daimler Trucks North America

When Daimler Trucks North America posted an internship seeking engineering students for their mechatronics department, Aimee Ritter almost didn’t try for it, because she didn’t think she was qualified. But one of her advising professors emailed her, “You are applying for this, right?” Ritter did -- and she not only got the internship, she excelled in the position so much that Daimler offered her a full-time permanent job.

Ritter, who has lived most of her life in Anchorage, Alaska, arrived at PSU knowing that she wanted to study engineering, and she decided on mechanical engineering because she felt it would be versatile. “With mechanical engineering, I could get into chemical or electrical engineering, depending on my interests would lead me. I’m very happy I made that choice.” She says that she didn’t know she would be interested in trucks, but she has been fascinated by all that she’s learned at Daimler, and about the society-wide impacts of the work done in her department. Eventually, she plans to move toward management, using the technical knowledge she has acquired as PSU and will continue to build in her new job.


PSU’s mechanical engineering department offers a three-course freshman sequence, and Ritter found that very helpful. “It’s a hands-on, intense first look at what engineering can be. If you can make it through that, you’re set.” Looking back on her own experiences at PSU, she also advises other students to take advantage of the resources that the university has for internships. “That’s how I got my job: I did six months of work, and they liked what they saw.”


Jacob Schoen

Major: Neuroscience

Employer: OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center

Neuroscience senior Jacob Schoen works as a researcher at OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center, and his journey to that job is a lesson in persistence and faith in one’s abilities.

Schoen grew up in in a town of 2,000 in eastern Oregon. As soon as he turned 18, he set out on his own to travel and teach English in Asia. Returning to Oregon, he settled in Portland, started taking classes at Portland Community College, then found his way to Portland State, where he met instructor Bill Griesar and fell in love with neuroscience.

Last year, Schoen applied for a summer internship at the Oregon National Primate Center, but he was not one of the few interns chosen from the hundreds of submissions. Although disappointed, Schoen carried on with his own work -- including outreach with Griesar’s NW Noggin, an organization that that brings art and neuroscience instruction into schools, public events, and even into the halls of the U.S. Congress. At a chapter meeting of a local neuroscience group, Schoen began talking about NW Noggin with a fellow attendee, who turned out to be a researcher from the Oregon National Primate Center. Through that connection, Schoen was offered a summer internship after all. Schoen’s research at the center focused on addiction, including analysis of the combined effects of alcohol and nicotine, and at the end of summer, he was hired to stay on, and plans to continue working at the center for a few more years, until he carries onto graduate school.


“School has a lot of opportunities that are not necessarily presented to you in the classroom.” Schoen believes that the real challenge for a lot of students is believing in themselves. “It sounds simple and cliched to say, but there’s a mental block, because you can’t believe you can perform at that level. But when you look at Ph.D.s and people at that level, they’re people too, and they’ve gone through the same struggles. That’s the biggest hurdle. Everything else seems available in education.”


Merab Smith

Major: Criminology and Criminal Justice

Employer: Tualatin Police Department

In 2015, Merab Smith was working in the Tualatin Police Department when she heard about Portland State’s online degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. “I started out slow, taking one or two courses each term. Then this last year, I’ve been going full-time. I’ve been able to manage my own time by doing it online, and it’s been an amazing program.”

Smith, who is now 35, had been out of school for a long time before starting at PSU, and while it was initially intimidating, she felt well supported. “My PSU adviser would call me at least once a month to check in: ‘How are your classes, do you need anything?’ It’s been really great to keep my brain learning.”

Smith is currently the office coordinator for the Tualatin Police Department, assisting the chief of police, but she says that she’s now going to use her degree to help her advance in her career. Her colleagues in the Tualatin Police Department have been proud of her, she says. “They’re excited that I’ve gone back to school and am trying to further my education. They’re also a little sad, because I probably won’t be able to stay there, so it’s a little bittersweet.” But Smith has been encouraging her co-workers to go back to school, too. “I tell them, you can manage your time really well, you can do it all online. People are interested in trying it.”


“Sign up and don’t wait.” Smith says that online students can start with a light load, the way that she did, taking just one or two classes and getting used to writing papers again. “Once they do, they’ll find that they’re able take more classes. I was able to finish faster than I thought. I was scheduled to finish at the end of this summer, but my adviser said, ‘You could finish sooner! What do you think?’ Now I’m going to be able to graduate and walk in June.”

Photo on home page: Otto Zietz earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from PSU in 2014, then went to work at Intel for one year. He returned to PSU for a master’s in material science in engineering. He completed that in the fall of 2016 and is now in PSU’s mechanical engineering doctoral program, working in collaboration with Intel on beyond CMOS technologies.