Many soon-to-be graduates with advanced degrees from well-respected institutions across the country—law schools and business schools among them—are finding it harder than expected securing employment as the anemic economy continues to struggle with the adverse after effects of the Great Recession and a persistently soft job market—characterized by economists as a market in which there’s an oversupply of workers at a time of limited demand by employers.
While it’s widely publicized that the unemployment rate for those with a college degree is only 4 to 5%—almost half the current U.S. unemployment rate of 9.1%, and a third of the 12 to 15% rate for those without a college education—finding work with a degree (or even two) isn’t exactly a piece of cake, either.
“It’s really tough out there,” says Danita Minnigan, 26, a Warren County, New Jersey native and student at the Newark campus of the Rutgers School of Law. After having finished her second year of law school this past May, Minnigan currently works as a summer associate.
The second summer of law school, a time when many students seek out summer associate positions at law firms, clerk for judges, work at the local district attorney’s office or perhaps at a small private practice in their hometowns, is seen as an especially critical time for law students, as many of them head into the summer hoping to come out of the internship experience with a firm offer of employment upon graduation.
And, traditionally, that’s often been the case. That is, until the recession hit.
“Not in this economy,” says Minnigan, who currently works as a summer associate at a Newark firm. “It used to be like that. It used to be that everyone worked at a firm, made good money, and got an offer, but firms have become very selective and summer internship classes have gotten smaller in recent years.” Now, says Minnigan, many of her second year law school classmates—commonly known as 2L’s—are finding it difficult to find paid summer work.
Last year, the average number of offers by law firms for 2010 summer associate positions was seven, according to statistics gathered by the National Association for Law Placement. That figure is down from 10 offers in 2008 and 15 offers in 2007.
“Many of my classmates, who have great credentials, have still been struggling to get jobs,” says Minnigan. “People are still getting jobs, just not as easily as before.”
Some firms, she noted, facing smaller than expected budgets, are even rescinding offers.
And the statistics for business school students seem equally as daunting, according to Jacquline Chaffin, director of The Career Center at Seton Hall University (SHU) in South Orange, New Jersey. Chaffin's office tracks the number of B-school students offered jobs upon graduation after having completed an internship during the year.
The results, Chaffin believes, serve as an indicator of what a given class could face once they hit the job market when graduation rolls around. In a thriving economy, approximately 55% of SHU B-school students are offered full-time jobs after completing internships. That figure fell to a dismal 31% in 2010. And while she expects that number to climb once statistics for 2011 are tabulated, overall placement rates will more than likely fail to return to pre-recession levels so long as the economy continues to lag.
Sana Ismail, 27, a 2010 graduate of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, agrees. "By the time I graduated, I had made an Excel spreadsheet of over 100 jobs that I applied to with no luck," she says.
Ismail, finding it difficult to secure a job immediately after graduation, initially moved back to her native California. She finally got her current position at a multinational New York communications firm this past January with the help of her school’s Career Services department. "Fortunately, most people in my class eventually got something, but it was much tougher than in previous years. ” Now, after close to a year in her current post, Ismail says she’s preparing to go “back to square one” yet again, as her company has been letting go of workers as part of a plan to shutter its New York operations.
Minnigan, for her part, has been one of the fortunate ones among her rising 3L law school class, having secured her current associateship since last September. “I’m just thankful to have a job for the summer,” she says.
“I hope to be in a law firm practicing corporate or transactional law,” she adds. “But the type of law is not my main concern. As long as I have something that’s secure, I’ll be happy.”