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More seniors heading straight to graduate school

STANFORD - Increasing numbers of Stanford seniors are heading straight to graduate school after commencement, according to a recent survey by the university's Career Planning and Placement Center.

But for students searching for jobs, the rewards are out there, says placement center director Ruth Schneider.

“For most Stanford students, I would say the 'R word' - recession - is gone,” Schneider said.

“On-campus recruiting programs are continuing strong this year, with interviewing rooms booked to capacity. The engineering job scene is much better, particularly for electrical engineering and computer science majors. Silicon Valley has come back, and graduates who might have gone to Texas or North Carolina or Boston a couple of years ago can stay here now, if they want.”

That doesn't mean that it's an easy job market out there, she cautioned.

“The main difference I see between now and the 1980s is that students are working much harder at their job searches and they're getting started earlier. Many are taking internships while they're still undergrads to improve their competitive edge. There is a lot more anxiety now.”

Graduate school trends

In the survey, conducted by the Career Planning and Placement Center last summer, 45 percent of respondents who received bachelor's degrees in 1993-94 said they planned to attend graduate school full time - up 7 percent over the previous year. (About 95 percent of Stanford seniors say they intend to complete post-graduate degrees eventually.)

Of eight Native American students who responded to the survey, 6 said they were going directly to graduate school, mostly for master's or professional degrees. Among Asian American senior respondents, 89 out of 157 (57 percent) planned to attend graduate school immediately, as did 18 of 34 African American senior respondents (53 percent), 24 of 59 Chicano/Latino respondents (41 percent), and 131 of 340 Caucasian senior respondents (39 percent).

Forty-three percent of the senior respondents said they planned to work full time immediately after graduation - about 12 percent less than in 1990, before the recession. Twelve percent had other plans, including travel, part-time work, internships or voluntary service.

“Applications to graduate school are definitely up,” said Hector Cuevas, director of the university's Undergraduate Advising Center, which assists students with pre-professional and graduate school advising.

“I think students of all ethnic backgrounds are concerned about the job market. But another factor is that Stanford is doing a much better job of encouraging minority populations to enter graduate school,” he said.

“We have done a lot more in recent years in terms of advising students and providing for graduate research opportunities and funding. The emphasis has been on getting more minority students into the academic pipeline, but we've also been active in pre-professional advising.”

Of all senior survey respondents who had been accepted to graduate school, 31 percent said they were planning to pursue a master's degree, 28 percent were going to medical school, 16 percent were going to law school, 13 percent were going to pursue a Ph.D., and 1 percent were headed straight for business school. (Students are strongly encouraged to work for one or two years before applying to MBA programs.) The remainder plan to obtain other advanced degrees.

When asked about the factors influencing their decision to attend graduate school, three-quarters of the seniors checked “intellectual pursuits and academia.” Half checked “necessary professional preparation," and a quarter said “additional professional preparation” (earning a master's in electrical engineering, for example).

Parental/family influence was identified by 19 percent of the respondents as a factor in choosing to attend graduate school. About 3 percent said they wanted to attend graduate school to defer loans, and 5 percent of the students said it was because they couldn't find a job.

Job outlook much better

The placement center's survey was sent to all students who were awarded bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees in the schools of Earth Sciences, Education, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences during the 1993-94 academic year. A total of 1,279 students responded to the survey, a 44 percent response rate.

The responding population was reflective of the university as a whole, with a slight underrepresentation of non-U.S. residents.

Of the 749 students (59 percent) who said they intended to work full time immediately after graduation, 80 percent already had accepted job offers, mostly in engineering or business.

About 49 percent of the 121 Ph.D.s who had accepted jobs were working in higher education, including faculty, postdoctoral, administrative and research positions.

Engineering graduates had the best average starting salaries - about $36,000 for bachelor's recipients, $46,000 for master's recipients and $64,000 for Ph.D. recipients. (The highest reported starting salary was $110,000 for a Ph.D. engineer who joined a consulting firm.)

Humanities and Sciences bachelor's recipients had average starting salaries of around $30,000; master's recipients averaged around $36,000 and Ph.D. recipients around $43,000.

Education master's students started at an average of $32,000, while those with education doctorates averaged around $44,000.

Management consulting continues to be a hot field for Stanford graduates, Schneider said, as downsized corporations are willing to pay large fees for temporary assistance with projects that used to be given to middle managers.

Public service career specialist Anne Greenblatt sees greater numbers of students interested in working overseas, particularly in Latin American markets stimulated by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Greenblatt also points to a large increase in the number of students, particularly sophomores and juniors, attending the career center's annual Public Service Career and Internship Fair this year, probably because of the addition of internships to this year's program.

“The trend, in my view, is the continuing high level of interest in public service,” Greenblatt said, “combined with the common student view that one probably can't have a career in public service, given loans to repay or the need to support a family in the future. I think students are very interested, however, in reality testing these assumptions. And the fair is a good place to do that.”

About 65 percent of the students responding to the survey said they had used the services of the Career Planning and Placement Center within the 1993-94 academic year, and 78 percent had used the CPPC during their Stanford experience.

The center's most heavily used services included staff- designed handouts and employer literature, followed by on-campus recruiting, the career center library, the annual career fair, individual counseling and the reference file service.

New services at the placement center this year have included a job hotline number (415-723-6633) allowing access to full-time job listings via telephone day or night, seven days a week.

The placement center also is listing full and part-time job opportunities on the Internet now, at, or gopher Stanford alumni who wish to use either service from off campus should contact the Career Planning and Placement Center. The center's number is (415) 723-3963.



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