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Despite Recession, Students Find Jobs

By Rahul T. Rao
Staff Reporter

Although the number of companies recruiting at MIT was down 20 percent from previous years and the economy only recently emerged from a long downspiral, students continued to receive many interviews and job offers over the last year.

Robert K. Weatherall, director of the Office of Career Services, said, "MIT students have continued to land good summer jobs and good jobs for after graduation." The success of engineering and management majors has been particularly strong, he added.

"Many students are much more concerned about their prospects in these times than need be," he said.

Jean H. Kim '93, a civil engineering major, said, "I haven't seen a need to worry. Everyone I know has gotten at least some [job] offers although it might not have been their first choice."

Weatherall said there are two major reasons why MIT students have been "recession proof." He explained, "First is that companies have reduced their recruiting efforts by focusing on students from the better schools ... and MIT is always on the top of their list. Second, MIT students have the ability to work with computers and make them perform regardless of their major." Weatherall has observed that a considerable number of students from all majors get jobs involving software.

Shift to management and finance

The 1991-1992 annual report of the Office of Career Services indicates changes in the demographics of the corporations recruiting at MIT. In particular Wall Street firms have recovered from the crisis of 1987 and are coming in large numbers, the report says.

Approximately 20 percent of the companies interviewing at MIT are either in management consulting or in the financial industry, Weatherall said. He expects that students from the Sloan School of Management taking jobs with management consulting firms will be outnumbered by students from other departments entering management.

Haejn Baek, vice-president at Lehman Brothers, said, "The markets are extremely competitive and we have found that MIT students' computer and math skills give us an edge."

Ken S. Justin '93, an electrical engineering major, said, "I have received many interviews from consulting and financial firms. They have recruited much more aggressively than the more engineering-oriented companies."

"The present state of the economy has been a strong consideration in my decision to pursue jobs in the financial industry. I am unenthusiastic about the future prospects in pure engineering," he said.

Salary offers are the most significant indicator of the poor economic climate. Most offers increased at a rate less than the inflation rate. The mean salary for an SB across all the majors was $30,280. Chemical engineering had the highest mean for an SB at $34,850. For the SM degree the mean salary offer for engineering majors was $36,660. The highest mean offers for SM degrees were for electrical engineering and computer science majors at $37,200. For the PhD degree, the highest offer went to electrical engineering majors at $57,500.

Weatherall said that MIT students in all majors possess skills applicable to a number of different careers. To better serve students in a variety of career choices, the Career Office has recently completed a survey in collaboration with the Japanese National Institute of Science and Technology Policy. Masamichi Ishii of NISTEP conducted the study to better understand how the usage of engineering majors differed in the U.S. and Japan.

"The study has provided a great deal of insight into the career paths that our students follow," Weatherall said. Questionnaires were sent out to approximately 2,000 alumni of MIT from the graduating classes of 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1985. About 1,000 surveys were completed and returned.

The report indicates only 47 percent of MIT undergraduates went on to receive a technical masters degree or a PhD. Another 14 percent went on to receive an MBA, 4 percent received a law degree, 3 percent got an MD, and another 3 percent received a non-technical SM or PhD.

Weatherall pointed out that the number of students pursuing graduate studies in technical areas is much smaller than most people at MIT believe. He hopes to use this and other information provided by the survey to better guide students. The career office has a tremendous resources and has contact with industry on a day-to-day basis, he added.

"We can provide guidance from a different perspective. We are able to give advice without looking through the rose-tinted lenses of research," he said.