John Derevjanik has wanted to be an electrical engineer for as long as he can remember. Now that he's a semester away from his bachelor's degree at Cal State Fullerton, he has worked his way up to his company's engineering department and is hoping for further advancement when he gets his diploma next year.
Many of his graduating friends and fellow electrical engineering students don't have that kind of safety net, admitted the 26-year-old senior from Laguna Beach. "A lot of them are just going on to graduate school because the market isn't ready for this many engineers."
Indeed, graduate school applications are up 25% over last year at Cal State Fullerton, as well as at other universities. At least some of that interest is linked to the recession.
"Given a soft job market, some folks are going to graduate school to develop their career opportunities," said James Blackburn, Cal State Fullerton's director of admissions. "It's axiomatic. Anytime the economy goes down, college applications go up. Of course if things get too bad, applications go down and everything kind of stops."
Yet even graduate school isn't a passport to a cushy future.
Take the students getting their MBA--masters of business administration--next month at UCI's Graduate School of Management.
"Most people think you get an MBA and you automatically get a $50,000-a-year job," said Marsheila Devan, 33, of Capistrano Beach, who will get her MBA at UCI on June 13. "That isn't true anymore. . . . There are some people in the school who aren't concerned because their parents are taking care of them. But there is a core of people who are pretty desperate to find a job."
One management professor told Devan this is the worst job market she has seen in years. And Linda White, director of UCI's women's opportunities center, said most career centers at universities across the nation are finding recruitment down at least 30%. Partly in response, 38 U.S. MBA programs have banded together for the first time to make recruiting easier by holding consolidated job fairs at one campus.
But some companies that are recruiting on college campuses are not offering jobs, just raising the corporate banner.
"I've interviewed with six different companies, and what I found is that they aren't hiring or they're being more selective," Devan said. "I've had seven years' experience working, and they want to hire people with less experience, people they can pay less.
"Honestly, I'm looking for just about anything now," said the mother of three who just learned that her husband, UCI's women's track coach, will be laid off July 1 due to anticipated UC budget cutbacks.
"I have to try to be calm about it. I could just go crazy, but I have to remain calm, use some of these strategies for job searching and plot it all out," she said. "And when I think about it, too, I know there are people far worse off than we are."