NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Elizabeth Emeigh didn't win the lottery, but she has something almost as valuable as a jackpot: a paying job waiting for her when she graduates from college this spring.
"I feel lucky," says Emeigh, an accounting major at Fairfield University who will work for Ernst & Young in Manhattan. "I'm one of the few people with a job."
She may not be for long.
Job opportunities, which have been seemingly impossible for new grads to come by in recent years, will be more abundant in the coming year, according to a study released Monday by National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Specifically, employers plan to hire 12.7 percent more grads during the 2003-2004 academic year than they did 12 months ago, and they've got plans to offer more interns full-time staff positions. In the coming year, 43 percent of employers will offer their interns full-time jobs.
But while hiring will increase, it's far from likely that college grads will bring home beefier paychecks.
Just over half of all employers said they would raise starting salaries for new hires in the coming year. Those that do increase pay will make only modest adjustments, boosting salaries by 3.4 percent on average.
"Even though we're turning a corner, a lot of employers are remaining very cautious," said Camille Luckenbaugh, research director at NACE. "They want to see how well the recovery goes before they start committing to higher salaries."
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Of course, a student's earning potential is most affected by his or her major. Starting salaries are expected to vary widely, from $27,683 for psychology majors to $51,343 typically given to a computer engineering graduate entering the workforce.
This year, employers say the students they want the most have degrees in accounting, electrical and mechanical engineering, business administration, economics, computer science and management information systems, marketing, information sciences and computer engineering.
"That's the list we've been seeing for the past three to four years," said Luckenbaugh. "These are the ones that are most needed."
That wouldn't surprise Emeigh's peers.
"I don't know any non-business majors who have full-time jobs yet," she said. "My friends in the accounting field are in good positions. They either have jobs [lined up] or they're interning."
That's not to say Emeigh's job came easily. She had to e-mail her resume to recruiters before landing on-campus interviews. She did well enough to be invited to a second round of questioning at Ernst & Young, and only then did she get an internship last summer.
Her permanent job offer came in August, on her last day of the internship, and though she knows the job is hers to keep, Emeigh diligently keeps in touch with her old boss by e-mail.
"It was a great relief," says Emeigh. "My parents were thrilled."