Job prospects on declineCompanies recruiting at MIT this year were more selective in their hiring than in previous years, according to Robert K. Weatherall, director of the Office of Career Services and Preprofessional Advising (OCSPA).
"They came in great numbers," Weatherall said. "The paradox is that they organized more presentations and had more publicity than ever before, but in the end, the job opportunities seemed uncertain."
The economic sluggishness of several key industries, such as the computer, semiconductor, oil and chemical industries, was the major reason for the companies' slower hiring this year, Weatherall explained.
"The computer industry has affected recruiting," he said. "The computer companies came in great numbers until Christmas." IBM had cautioned the MIT Career Office that it would slow down its hiring after Christmas, Weatherall said.
One indicator of demand for graduates is the change in starting salaries, he said.
"The starting salaries have hardly gone up," said Rebecca L. Stanley, associate coordinator of recruiting.
The median starting salary for MIT graduates with an S B in Electrical Engineering rose from $29,000 last year to $29,500 this year, and that of students with degrees in Computer Science went from $28,500 to $28,600, according to OCSPA statistics.
These changes correspond respectively to 1.7 percent and 0.4 percent increases over last year's figures, both of which are lower than the 1984 national rate of inflation.
The high number of graduates with degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT has saturated the demand for MIT students in these fields, according to Weatherall.
One reason for this is the "strong demand on the defense side," he said. Department of Defense contractors "haven't had any cutbacks and are not going through the same problems faced by other industries."
There are still many opportunities to work for other firms, he stressed. "I don't think it means that students are being pushed to work for defense companies."
The information explosion has created a need for people who can effectively use computers and who have a high degree of quantitative ability, Weatherall explained. As a result, graduates are finding increasing opportunities in areas that require such abilities but are not necessarily engineering or science-related.
"It used to be liberal arts graduates in marketing departments. MIS [Management Information Systems] people now work with marketing people in managing the brand." He added that MIS departments of Wall Street firms are also recruiting more at MIT.
The development of communication and interpersonal skills is especially important for those who want to succeed in areas that require a high degree of interaction with non-technical people, Weatherall continued.
"If you are in a technical discipline, you can afford to be a nerd," he commented. "If you want to work for Wall Street, you can't afford to be a nerd. It's better to have a 4.2 [grade-point average] and breadth than to have a 4.8 and have no breadth."
"You can get your ideas across if you can explain well," he said. "Engineers must be able to write about technology so that MBA's can understand it. So go out and work for the Tech."
Weatherall also stressed the importance of work experience and broad accomplishments in extracurricular activities in addition to good grades.
"The best MIT graduates are a new kind of renaissance man and woman," he explained. "They have a broad background and are not afraid of practical things."
Weatherall encouraged MIT students to take courses in areas outside their major, such as humanities, management, and economics.
"The opportunities are not summarized by the name of your major," he said to freshmen. "Some students feel that if they've chosen Aero-Astro or EE, they must pursue a career in their major. You don't need to feel categorized by major."