Faced with a weak job market, many seniors may choose to pursue graduate degrees rather than risk unemployment after Commencement, according to several economists and industry analysts.
As tight budgets force corporations to hire fewer college students, the pool of recruited students is likely to grow more competitive, said Judith Murray, recruiting coordinator in Harvard's Office of Career Services (OCS).
In anticipation of this trend, many students are opting for further study rather than seeking jobs right after graduation, said L. Patrick Scheetz, director of the Collegiate Career Employment Institute at Michigan State University.
"Students are normally very aware of the job market," Scheetz said. "If they are correct, there's a message in these statistics."
But according to an OCS study of the class of 1991, the percentages of students seeking immediate employment and those planning graduate work have changed little from the percentages of previous years.
"Because of the recession and the tight job market, we anticipated a rise in the percentage going to graduate school, but this did not happen," the report said.
The OCS report indicated that more students are interested in academic careers and fewer in business. But the slowed economy is not responsible for these changes in preference, said Martha P. Leape, director of the Office of Career Services.
"I think that is more because of the opening up of the academic job market, which is supposed to be stronger in the late nineties than its been in 20 years," Leape said.
But the academic market is an exception, said Wayne M. Ayers, chief economist at the Bank of Boston. The financial services industry, which attracted more than 18 percent of Harvard graduates last year, is especially hard-hit by the stalled economy, Ayers said.
"One of things we're seeing in this recession, and this hasn't been true in past recessions, [is] actual job losses in the white collar and service sectors of the economy," Ayers said.
"My guess is that at times of an economic downturn you do tend to see an increase in applications for training at either graduate or professional schools," Ayers added.
But Ayers said he believes the economy is gradually recovering. Murray said she thinks that if Harvard graduates apply themselves, they should have no trouble finding work.
"I would much rather see an increase in numbers [employed] come out of Harvard than another school, and that will happen if our students are prepared," Murray said