UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Job outlook for graduates sunnier than expected

– As the season of caps, gowns and "Pomp and Circumstance" winds down this week at the University of California, Berkeley, many new graduates are uneasy about their job prospects, given reports of an economic slowdown.

"I'm excited, but really wigged out about not being a student any more," said art practice graduate Madelyn Covey after her recent commencement ceremony in the Berkeley Art Museum's sculpture garden. "It's harder to get a good job."

But career counselors and analysts at UC Berkeley say they have seen no sign of employers putting the brakes on recruitment efforts: "Contrary to the national picture, we're seeing a very high level of employer activity," said Tom Devlin, director of UC Berkeley's Career Center, which sponsors some 20 career fairs on campus a year and provides numerous other career services.

For example, an "ECO" career fair that brought environmental companies to campus in March saw a 56 percent increase in employers from the previous year. And a career fair in April drew more than 200 employers , including Sun Microsystems, Intel, the U.S. State Department, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bay Area Superior Courts and the Seneca Center for Children and Families.

"There's a cachet to being a Cal graduate," said Suzanne Helbig, marketing coordinator and counselor with the Career Center. "Employers recognize the rigorous coursework that our students undertake and the diversity of experience they hold. That's why employers continue to flock to our fairs despite the shifting economy."

Job opportunities for freshly minted MBAs have increased slightly from a year ago, with the median salary of $103,000 holding steady, according to Abby Scott, director of MBA career services at the campus's Haas School of Business.

As of May, the top firms hiring Haas MBA graduates included Amazon, Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte Consulting, Google, PG&E, Yahoo!, and Wells Fargo Bank. Top firms offering internships included Abbott Labs, Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Google, McKinsey & Company, and ZS Associates. Dow Chemical offered four internships focused on sustainability, reflecting the growing interest in that field among students.

The number of online job postings has declined this year, however, reflecting a drop in "just-in-time hiring" as a result of weak economic conditions. "We're anticipating a little bit of a downturn due to challenging market conditions," Scott said.

The same applies to journalism graduates who are facing a shrinking newspaper and magazine industry. But a heightened emphasis at the Graduate School of Journalism on multi-media training appears to be paying off, said Rob Gunnison, director of school affairs there.

He said video production and Web skills are making journalism graduates "pretty saleable prospects." Most of the 56 journalism students graduating this spring have landed jobs or are confident of securing something soon, he said, noting that some summer internships are essentially try-outs for permanent jobs.

Typically at UC Berkeley, two-thirds of the students enter the workforce after graduating, one-quarter pursue graduate studies, and the remainder enter the military, the Peace Corps or take a year off to travel or explore other options, Devlin said.

While some students begin their job search early, others wait until the last minute. That's why the Career Center is hosting an on-campus event called "Jumpstart" today, Thursday, May 22, at which recruiters from Google, Dreyer's Ice Cream, Target Corp., Teach for America, the Peace Corps and Enterprise Rent-a-Car will help about 100 graduating seniors hone their job skills and prepare their applications.

Even though the business and high-tech sector is always on the lookout for new talent, recruiting students as young as sophomores, UC Berkeley graduates in all disciplines are in hot demand, Devlin said.

"Firms are looking for smart individuals, regardless of their major, who have demonstrated career commitment," Devlin said.

Driving recruitment activity is the fact that many employers were not hiring in 2001 and 2002 and are now facing a gap in middle management, as well as a wave of retirements in coming years, Devlin said.

And even when the economy slows down, "Berkeley is the last institution recruiters will stop dealing with," Devlin said.