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Gen Y at Work +Full coverage

How we picked the 20

By Christopher Tkaczyk

(Fortune) -- Each spring, about 1.5 million new college grads enter the workplace hoping to put their newly acquired degrees to good use, get their careers going, and start making some cash. Thanks to a bright job market, more than half of 12,303 graduating students polled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers already had accepted jobs by early May. Meanwhile, another 49% of those seeking full-time jobs are still looking.

But Gen Y grads tend to be more finicky about the employers they want to work for than previous classes were. Rather than just seek a solid paycheck and a good chance at a promotion down the road, they hope to join a deep-pocketed company, where they can work for a hip boss in an office that has free food, flexible hours, and video game consoles. Hey, who wouldn't?

In that spirit, Fortune asked the folks at Experience Inc. to help us find great employers for new grads. Experience, an online career adviser and recruitment database, serves as a liaison between colleges and universities across the country and the companies that seek to employ recent graduates.

The resulting 20 profiles aren't meant to serve as a comprehensive list of the best companies for recent college graduates to work for, or a ranking of top employers. Instead, they're meant to give the latest crop of entry-level candidates examples of the types of great jobs and perks they can aspire to.

Experience invited some 60,000 corporate recruiters in its database - as well as other top companies on the Fortune 500, and various published lists of top employers - to respond to a survey in the summer of last year. Some 247 companies replied to the initial round of questions. Based on those answers, we narrowed the pool to 142 employers, who were also asked to reply to a follow-up survey in October. About 45 replied, although companies were not required to complete the follow-up survey to be considered for this feature.

Any company that did not expect to hire 50 new grads by the end of 2006 was taken out of the running. In addition, military organizations were not considered.

Employers were asked about salary, training programs, promotion opportunities, mentoring, competitiveness, vacation time, work-life balance, diversity, and other issues key to new grads. After Fortune and Experience reviewed their answers, we selected 20 employers that represented a range of impressive perks new grads can hope to find in their first jobs - ranging from generous salaries to workplace flexibility, from enviable benefits to serious growth opportunities.

They also span a wide range of industries -- from education nonprofit Teach for America to defense contractor Northrop Grumman (Charts, Fortune 500), from traditional Big Four firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers to small health-care consultant Stockamp & Associates.

Consider them inspiration for a graduating student's job hunt. Top of page