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Senior Survey 2010

By Clifford M. Marks, Crimson Staff Writer

The number of Harvard seniors who intend to join the workforce next year and have found employment by graduation rose from 58 percent last year to nearly two-thirds for the Class of 2010, according to The Crimson’s fourth annual senior survey.

The uptick comes as the broader U.S. economy shows signs of recovery following last year’s devastating financial crisis, but the figure still marks a drop from 2007, when 73.2 percent of such graduates had finalized employment plans by the time they left the Yard.

The high-paying finance and consulting sectors, which just three years ago hired 47 percent of seniors intending to work right after graduation, came in comparatively low at 30.52 percent, though that figure represents a rise from 20 percent last year, when companies slashed hiring levels as Wall Street grappled with the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

After finance and consulting, education clocked in as the third most-popular field, drawing 13.7 percent of graduates planning to enter the workforce, likely reflecting the recruiting success of programs such as Teach for America, which reported last month that 17 percent of this year’s class had applied to its two-year teaching program.

The percentage of seniors planning to work this year also rose slightly from 59.7 percent to 61.4 percent, while the proportion applying to graduate school fell by a corresponding amount from 24.6 to 22.9, though these changes were not statistically significant. Last year saw an increase in students headed for graduate school and a decrease in the number looking for jobs, as seniors faced the bleakest employment prospects in recent memory.

But if Harvard students are having more success in the job market this year, they still report that employment is not always coming in their “dream” fields. Less than a third of students planning to work a job in finance indicated that sector as the field they would have entered if salary were not a concern. The same was true for around half of future consultants.

A plurality of Harvard seniors said they would choose to work in public service if not burdened by financial concerns, with 16.86 percent indicating it as their “dream” field, while 13.95 percent indicated their interest in the artse. Just 4 percent of seniors planning to work next year said they would actually end up in the arts. 11 percent of the class said the same of public service.

For the second year in a row, Boston remained the post-graduate destination of choice for Harvard seniors, with 24.4 percent of the class citing it as their home-to-be, but New York rated a very close second, drawing 24.3 percent of seniors, after falling last year to just one-fifth of the class.  A tenth of the class will be heading to California, and a little over 5 percent will take up residence in Washington D.C.

Around 17 percent of seniors said they would be living outside the United States next year, with Europe drawing the highest number of Harvard graduates at 7.3 percent. 4.5 percent of the graduating class will head for Asia, and 1 percent will live in Africa next year.

The Crimson’s survey of the Class of 2010 was conducted through a secure website that ensured only one response per senior. Over 500 members of the Class of 2010 responded to the survey between May 15 and May 21, 2010. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent.

—Staff writer Clifford M. Marks can be reached at cmarks@fas.harvard.edu.

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Commencement 2010Seniors