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This year, 1.2 million college graduates faced the grim reality that they had to compete with nearly nine million unemployed individuals for approximately three million jobs. Yet, many career specialists are warning against the urge to postpone a job search and stay in school to pursue a master’s degree. “Based on the employers we have surveyed, rushing out to attain an M.B.A. straight from undergraduate school may be a big mistake,” says Tony Lee, editor-in-chief of the College Journal (www.collegejournal.com), a free online publication for undergraduate, graduate, and M.B.A. students seeking job search and career guidance information. “It runs counter to the intended premise of an advanced degree, which is to learn more about a field in which you’re truly interested.” Unfortunately, many anxious job seekers view a second degree simply as a rÃ©sumÃ© enhancer. “With the job market being this bad,” says Lee, “a lot of college grads are charging out for an M.B.A., but for the wrong reasons.”
According to Lee, the following are the primary concerns of employers today:
- Even if the applicant has an M.B.A., does the job seeker really have the aptitude to do well in the job?
- Was the decision to go to graduate school made last minute out of desperation to get a job?
- Was the M.B.A. received at a top-tier business school?
To effectively compete for students, many business schools have had to adjust and enhance their programs to better prepare graduates for the competitive work environment they now face. “The economy is definitely having an impact on how students are considering M.B.A. programs,” concurs Liz M. Riley, assistant dean for the daytime M.B.A. program and director of admissions at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina. “At the end of the two-year journey, students want to know that they will be able to obtain a job in their chosen field.”
“Despite a tough economy, Fuqua students weathered the storm very well. The entire Fuqua community has been extremely responsive to assisting students with their job search. A wonderful example of this responsiveness is a campaign that our career management center initiated called Hire Up,” Riley explains. “The campaign took place from March 1 to June 1, and, during this time, the career management center contacted over 12,000 targeted alumni and company recruiters. Our goal [was] to provide jobs now and build relationships for the future. The three-month program generated a 56% increase in job opportunities [compared to] the same time period last year.”
Babson College’s F. W. Olin Graduate School of Business in Babson Park, Massachusetts, is one of many business schools that has revamped its M.B.A. program in an attempt to meet the changing needs of employers. “Most of our M.B.A. students are coming in because they are ready for a broader business vision and ready to move beyond their chosen field,” explains Associate Dean Bill Lawler, Ph.D. “The curriculum at Babson has [been developed as a result of] the growing chasm between the academic and business worlds. We’ve made arrangements with certain