In today’s difficult economy, there are many qualified candidates coming out of top–flight graduate schools, but unfortunately there are not enough job opportunities waiting for them. The overall employment rate for the law school class of 2011 fell to its lowest level since 1994 – at just 85.6 percent. Even worse, merely 65.6 percent of law school graduates in 2011 found jobs that required bar membership in the first place, thus leaving 35 percent of law school graduates to either be underemployed or not employed at all. This problem of having too much labor supply, but not enough labor demand, is leading esteemed graduate schools such as Northwestern University, George Washington University, and the University of California’s Hastings College of Law to trim their admissions by taking up to 20 percent fewer students. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the University of Virginia’s 7–ranked law program, which actually saw an increase in acceptance volume last year, but overall, schools are cutting down.
However, the negative effect of the decreased number of acceptances is mitigated by the fact that fewer people have been applying to graduate school, as their incentives of high starting salaries and guaranteed job opportunities have all but disappeared due to the competitive market. Rather than come out of graduate school in heavy debt and with few job opportunities, many people are losing interest in applying to law schools and MBA programs. Law school applications have dropped 14 percent from the previous year, and MBA applications have fallen by an average of 10 percent. By forgoing graduate school opportunities, these individuals are focusing on their immediate need for employment at the expense of improving their academic qualifications.
In order to prepare for the competitive job market, these days many undergraduates are choosing to focus on up–and–coming industries to work in and "job market ready" fields such as engineering and business, while focusing less on the humanities and arts. While declared majors in science and math have spiked up 94 percent since 2001, arts majors have decreased by 26 percent. As a result, universities have been shrinking the size of their humanities doctoral programs for years. For example, the University of Pittsburgh cut its master’s and doctoral programs in German due to a loss of interest and state funding. Students hope that concentrating in more practical fields will improve their chances of finding a job upon completing their undergraduate studies.
Bleak as the employment market scenario would appear, there are a few bright spots. So where exactly are the jobs increasing? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare employment, including physicians and care centers, increased by 33,000 in the month of May 2012, and has risen by 340,000 overall this year. Transportation and warehousing added 36,000 jobs over the past month, and employment in wholesale trade rose by 16,000 in May 2012. Also, manufacturing employment has been trending up, increasing by 12,000 in May 2012, and has seen an overall increase of 495,000 since reaching a low in January 2010.
Job seekers should not get discouraged; these tough economic times are a challenge that can be overcome by staying vigilant, actively looking for opportunities whenever possible, and considering higher education if it is practical. America’s Job Exchange can help.