WITH the economic recovery, the Class of 2010 from the three local universities is reporting higher employment rates and better starting salaries compared to graduates from the year before.

In particular, graduates from the Singapore Management University (SMU) last year had a record employment rate of 99.9 per cent and higher starting salaries across five of the university's degree programmes, surpassing the performance of graduates in 2009, when 96.8 per cent found employment.

At the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), about 90 per cent found jobs within six months.

These were among the findings of the Graduate Employment Survey just released by the Education Ministry.

The average monthly salary among SMU graduates in full-time jobs was $3,271, an improvement of 5.8 per cent over 2009's figure of $3,093 - it is also the highest for SMU graduates since its first cohort graduated in 2004.

In addition, the top 20 per cent of its graduates, usually those working in financial institutions, took home an average salary of $5,062. There were some among the 125 top-earners who were paid up to $13,000 a month.

NTU's top earner is an accountancy graduate working in a financial institution in Hong Kong, earning $12,000 a month.

One SMU economics graduate, Mr Lim Weizhong, 26, started work as an analyst with the Deutsche Bank immediately after his final exams.

After almost a year, he was headhunted by global financial institution Fidelity to be a relationship management analyst in Ghana for a year, serving Asian companies in the African market. Mr Lim, who graduated cum laude and was on the Dean's List in 2009, was offered more than $6,000 in both jobs. He said the soft skills he picked up at SMU helped him in the workforce.

'I felt that presentation skills and interview skills that SMU emphasised gave me the upper hand in my work compared to my peers,' he said, adding that he will be leaving for Ghana this weekend.

Another graduate, Miss Ku Kairong, 25, from NTU's school of art, design and media, said her course provided a good foundation across media platforms, including animation, product design and visual communication.

She got a job as an art director with advertising agency TBWA before she graduated last May and will soon be joining another advertising agency.

While the full-time employment rate for students from the art, design and media school is relatively lower at 60.4 per cent compared to, say, engineering at 80 or 90 per cent, Miss Ku said the nature of the industry means many of her classmates are freelancing rather than being tied down to one job.

Courses such as teaching, nursing and dental surgery had graduates posting a 100 per cent employment rate.

At NTU, the top-earners were graduates from the computer science course, with a mean monthly salary of $3,385 followed by graduates from the aerospace engineering course with $3,344 and teachers, with starting salaries ranging from $3,199 to $3,281.

At NUS, excluding courses which require a year's pupilage or housemanship like law and medicine, information system graduates made the most, with an average of $3,384 a month.