Updated: March 15, 2013 1:15PM
Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I am a sophomore at the University of Chicago and in the process of deciding on a career in law or business. What are the job prospects for each of these professions given the current state of the economy?
A master of business administration program takes two years and law school takes three years to complete. I hear horror stories about students graduating with thousands of dollars of debt and weak job prospects. If I don’t go to graduate school, what are my chances of finding a good job?
Dear Student: You do have options. If you are a top student, with excellent SAT scores (yes, many companies require them) and possess strong analytical skills, chances are you will probably have multiple job offers when you finish your undergraduate degree. This option will allow you to have a few years to adjust to the work world.
If you are a plodder, and plan to take five years to complete your undergraduate degree, you may face a very poor job market. Typically, most students at the University of Chicago do not fall into this category, or you would not have been admitted in the first place.
Many students flounder as undergraduates at less competitive colleges and end up not being good candidates for either the job market or graduate school.
Newly minted MBAs are flooding a shrinking job market in record numbers. The Wall Street Journal reports that median pay today for new MBAs is down 4.6 percent from 2007-08.
Pay fell at 62 percent at 186 of the schools examined. While the greatest decline was at less prestigious schools, even the top schools are experiencing a decline in recruitment.
Law school graduates face a similar fate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be 21,880 new jobs for lawyers annually over the next 10 years, but 44,000 graduates each year will compete for them.
This, plus the fact that students graduating from private law schools face a staggering debt load of $150,000, means that you have some pretty serious decisions to make about whether to pursue a law degree or MBA.
REP. magazine, which targets wealth management advisers, reports that when it comes to financial advisers the more experience they have the less well they do for their clients: “For every year of experience an adviser has, his future production was expected to decline $12,700.”
So a lack of job experience might not be a bad thing if students are aggressive in their job search and have a strong academic record.
A student comfortable working with computers and spreadsheets will have a lot to offer potential employers. I encourage parents to encourage their kids to stay current with smartphones and tablets.
If employers feel you have the basic skills necessary to start right away, it helps. And, after spending a few years in the work world you will have a better idea of what your field of specialization should be when you pursue an advanced degree.