But not all students are having trouble finding jobs. At Bradley University, fields such as accounting, engineering and nursing have been able to place 100 percent of their students in 2010 and 2011, according to school records.
A recent job fair on the Bradley campus for nursing and physical therapy students demonstrated that it's still a boom market for medical grads.
"We had 51 recruiters from Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri," said Marilyn Miller-Luster, the career fair coordinator who works in Bradley's nursing department. "The recruiters that come here are looking for full- and part-time workers, as well as those who need summer employment."
The search for qualified medical staff brought Laurie Newlin, a health care recruiter from Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Ind., to Peoria.
"Union Hospital is a 380-bed regional hospital that serves a population area of 120,000," she said. "We find that Bradley provides well-prepared students, very focused on their careers."
Recruiters from the Navy, Army and Air Force were represented at the Bradley job fair.
One of the bigger attractions that had students lining up for more information was Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Amanda Schroeder, a senior from Elgin, said she wanted to talk to as many potential employers as she could while Jordan West, a senior from Naperville, said, "I just wanted to get my name out there."
Another student in the Rush line, Michelle Riemma, a junior nursing student from Lisle, explained she was looking for a summer job.
At the various tables around the room at the Bradley Student Center, recruiters offered small incentives for possible employees such as pens and chocolates but at the Freeport Health Network booth, Carol Boeke, a talent acquisition specialist, offered tote bags that looked like little bananas.
"We're here to explain who we are and the services we provide," said Boeke.
Danielle Mascagni, a physical therapist from Mercy Medical Center in Clinton, said her institution was looking to fill a variety of positions including nurses, physical therapists and marketing posts.
"Programs haven't grown to meet the demands of an aging population," she said.
The need for nurses and physical therapists will continue into the future — not just because patients are getting older but there's a need to replace the nurses that want to retire, said Molly Cluskey, a nursing professor at Bradley and the assistant dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences.
Along with out-of-town hospitals, area hospitals were also well represented at the job fair. OSF Saint Francis Medical Center had an extensive presence with eight people manning an extended booth.
Brent Morgan, an administrator with Petersen Health Care, a Peoria-based firm with over 90 facilities across Illinois and Iowa, was also looking for healthcare graduates.
"There's a huge shortage of nurses in long-term skilled nursing facilities," he said.