Starting salaries staying about the same as last year for recent graduates.

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Congratulations, college graduates. You're in luck: Employers are considering hiring you, a new survey reveals.

About 57% of employers say they plan to hire new college graduates this year, up from 53% last year and 44% in 2010.

Most companies (61%) will be offering grads the same starting pay as they did last year; 56% expect to pay them an annual salary that's less than $40,000.

These findings are based on a survey of 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals from different sized employers representing multiple industries. The survey was conducted by Harris Poll in February and early March for CareerBuilder, which is jointly owned by the Tribune Co., The McClatchy Co. and USA TODAY parent Gannett Co.

The fact that more companies are hiring new grads "is positive news," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. It's not surprising that most beginning salaries are about the same as last year, she says. Only 30% of companies expect their initial offers to graduates will be higher this year than last; 9% expect a decrease in starting pay.

Employers say they'll offer these starting salaries:

• 26% say they'll pay new graduates less than $30,000.

• 30%, $30,000 to less than $40,000

• 20%, $40,000 to less than $50,000

• 24%, 50,000 and higher.

If you're a business major, you may have another reason to celebrate: 39% of employers want to hire business majors. That's followed by 28% who want computer and information sciences majors; 18%, engineering; 14%, math and statistics; 14%, health professions and related clinical services; 12%, communications technology; 11%, engineering technologies; 10%, liberal arts and sciences as well as general studies and humanities; 7% education; 7%, science technologies; 7%, communication and journalism.

About 41% of employers don't think recent graduates are adequately prepared for roles in customer service, Haefner says. "A lot of customer service is about troubleshooting, problem solving and making sure the experience for the customer is positive, and that may take a lot more skill than new graduates have," she says.

Most employers say new college graduates are ready for the real world, but about a quarter (24%) don't believe colleges and universities have prepared students for positions in their companies.

Of those employers who have doubts about recent grads, the most common concerns include: 53% say there is too much emphasis on book learning instead of real-world learning; 35% say their company needs a blend of technical skills as well as soft skills from a liberal arts degree; 26% say entry level jobs are more complex today than they used to be; 16% say there is not enough focus on internships and apprenticeships; 16% say technology is changing too quickly for academics to keep up; 10% say not enough students are graduating with the degrees their company needs.

"These companies may think the graduates are academically strong, but they aren't sure they are prepared for the complexity of today's jobs," Haefner says. "Companies are asking these questions about graduates: Are they just book smart? Or will they have street smarts as well? The marketplace is evolving at a faster pace than it did in the past, and academia may not be keeping pace with technology that businesses need."

One of the take-away messages of the survey is that employers are expecting more of their employees in entry-level jobs, says Prasanna Tambe, an assistant professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, and one of the authors of The Talent Equation. Those first jobs are more complex than they used to be, requiring more industry acumen and technical skills, he says.

In fact, for many jobs today, it's important to have a blend of interpersonal and technical skills, Tambe says. It's hard to get all that from classes in college. A lot comes from hands-on work experience.

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