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Job market looks good for upcoming MIT grads

By Ben Reis

While college graduates nationwide struggle to find jobs, MIT students are faring comparatively well, according to Robert K. Weatherall, director of the Office of Career Services. Weatherall said no hiring statistics were available yet for this year.

MIT students are fortunate to be doing so well in a down market, and "they deserve to be," Weatherall said. Students at the Institute are "wonderfully in tune to the changing world," and are therefore well prepared for today's job market, he said.

Weatherall credits not only the Institute for making the right courses available, but more importantly the students, who pick the classes, for acquiring the skills that are relevant in today's marketplace. MIT students graduate with traits and credentials that are attractive to employers, who in these days of cost cutbacks and global competition are looking for a smaller and more talented workforce, he said.

W. Ralph Vixama '92, a student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, plans to attend graduate school next year but is looking for a job in case he does not get in to certain schools. He said the number of aero/astro job listings is dropping, as many are being replaced with computer-based jobs.

Vixama said he hopes he is qualified enough to enter the job market, knowing full well that most companies are looking for experience, even though "you're from MIT, so they expect you to be the best."

Number of recruiters drops again

The number of companies recruiting students at MIT fell 10 percent this year, a rate that compares well with other universi-

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ties, Weatherall said. This drop comes on the heels of a 20 percent decline last year. Despite the hard times, new companies continue to add themselves to the list of recruiters, he said.

Nicki Richardson, manager of the Corporate Information Group at Digital Equipment Corporation, said that Digital is recruiting this year at MIT. "Recruitment efforts have started to unfold, and things look positive," she said.

The market, Weatherall said, is headed toward high-tech and computer oriented jobs. MIT students, with their science and technology background, are well-prepared for this change, he said; jobs involving software design and mathematical analysis are cropping up in all areas of industry.

From manufacturing to avionics, software engineers find a relatively large number of job offerings, Weatherall said. Even in the world of finance, he continued, MIT computer science graduates are considered "hot shots" by many Wall Street firms such as JP Morgan and First Boston Corp., which have recently recruited quite actively at MIT.

Electrical engineers are also faring well during the slump, as are graduates going into biotechnology and environmental consulting. Students majoring in economics and management are finding many jobs involving mathematical market analysis and information systems management.

Jobs in architecture are hard to find, especially in the Boston area, he said. Mechanical engineers also have a hard time finding jobs in the region, but fortunately, they are in demand in other regions of the country.

Students planning to enter the field of aeronautics or astronautics will have a difficult time due to recent major cuts in defense spending, Weatherall said. However, companies in this field still offer many jobs in the software and electronics categories.

At 3M, job openings in all areas of engineering will be the same as last year, according to Marty Hanson, 3M's manager of college relations. 3M hired 300 to 350 college graduates and PhD students last year, about a dozen of whom came from MIT. Hanson said that PhD students, especially those in engineering, have as good a chance of getting jobs as those graduating with a bachelor's degree. Starting salaries at 3M are "holding steady," rising about 4 percent from last year, Hanson said.

But Weatherall disagreed, saying that graduate students, especially those finishing a PhD, will have a harder time finding jobs than undergraduates. He said that while PhD students are at the top of their fields, they are highly specialized and can occupy only a limited niche in the workplace. Undergraduates, on the other hand, can fill a variety of niches and are able to explore new opportunities, he said. MIT's undergraduate program produces well rounded' people who adapt easily to changing job market conditions, according to Weatherall.

Weatherall felt that students are often afraid to enter a certain industry because it is in a slump. They become concerned that it might not be worth it to get a job in that industry, and that any job worth having will be hard to get. Weatherall warned that this philosophy "can be carried too far," since jobs in such an industry can be highly advantageous in case of a future upturn. The opposite approach may also be dangerous, Weatherall continued: students usually swarm to hot areas of industry, and sometimes those companies collapse. He stressed that no matter what, students "should always keep all their options open."