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Nearly Three-Quarters of Harvard Grads Pursued For-Profit Jobs in 2018

By Elena Ramos
By Brie K. Buchanan and Jane Z. Li, Contributing Writers

Despite administrators' repeated entreaties, Harvard is still struggling to convince its graduates to go into public service.

Seventy-two percent of Harvard College’s Class of 2018 planned to enter for-profit jobs after graduating last May, according to the most recent employment report released by the College’s Office of Career Services.

Each year, OCS releases a report detailing the future plans of Harvard’s newest graduates. Ninety-eight percent of the Class of 2018 responded to the OCS survey, which asked questions about their careers, employment locations, and any fellowships or grants they had earned. Eighty-seven percent of seniors “answered the relevant questions,” according to the report.

Fourteen percent of graduates indicated they planned to work for non-profit organizations, eight percent indicated they planned to go work for the government or public institutions, and four percent indicated they would freelance or take on individual entrepreneurial pursuits.

The report’s findings come as Harvard is redoubling its efforts to steer graduates toward public service — a post-graduate path College alumni have historically been reluctant to pursue. Twenty-five percent of graduates entered consulting or finance in 2017, while just seven percent entered the public sector or worked for non-profits. Similarly, 25 percent of graduates entered consulting or finance in 2016, while six percent went into the public sector or non-profits.

Newly installed University President Lawrence S. Bacow pitched the importance of public service to alumni and students during his first trip to Washington, D.C. as president this summer. And, in his inauguration speech earlier this month, he reiterated his commitment to to increase funding for undergraduate public service internships.

Harvard’s newest alumni were also awarded 122 fellowships, including seven Rhodes scholarships, one Marshall, 16 Fulbright Grants, and six Schwarzman scholarships.

The idea of immediately enrolling in graduate school seems to have fallen out of vogue at Harvard, according to OCS Director Robin Mount. Fourteen percent of graduating seniors last May said they planned to attend a full-time graduate or professional school, down from 19 percent in 2017.

“Students used to go directly to medical school and law school,” Mount said in an interview. “And now both medical school and law school are really encouraging students to take at least one year off, if not two, so we’re not seeing as many students going straight into graduate school.”

Still, Mount noted that the 14 percent figure excludes students who choose to attend graduate or professional school several years after leaving college.

“About 83 percent of our students will go back to graduate or professional school,” Mount said. Mount describes life after graduation as “a 10-year journey of sort of discovering what you’re interested in, what questions you want to try and answer, where you feel you can make an impact.”

The senior job report also showed that jobs in technology have overtaken consulting in post-grad popularity. The percentage of students going into tech has steadily grown; six percent entered the field in 2013, compared to 11 percent in 2018.

Mount said students are also increasingly interested in “telling diverse stories" — meaning they plan to pursue careers in “creative writing or writing for television or streaming services, music, theater.”

Six percent of the Class of 2018 indicated they were unsure of their future plans. OCS provides guidance and advising after graduation specifically targeted to students suffering from professional indeicison.

After a six month follow-up, “we offer them special help with one of our advisers who’s in the area closest to what they’re interested in,” Mount said.

In line with previous trends, the Class of 2018 showed a clear preference for the country's coasts.

The plurality now reside in New York, Massachusetts, and California. Members of the class can also be found on six continents, with several dozen students in the UK and in China.

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