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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

May 30, 2008

School Selection: Career Prospects

This is part of my continuing series on school selection. Beyond other considerations, such as general selection strategy, ranking, location, financing your education, academic fit, and prestige, you should select degree programs that will support your career goals. This is a huge consideration that not only involves what you can learn, but also whether the career placement services, alumni network, and market value of the degree will provide you with the right kind of support to help you obtain employment after you finish. This applies as much to doctoral programs in English Literature as it does to more career focused degrees like an MBA, LL.M, or MPA.

You should of course consider the specific ROI (Return on Investment) that you can expect from the degree based upon your goals. If possible, actually calculate your anticipated ROI. This is especially useful for comparing programs. Most programs can provide some data on starting salaries and placement of their graduates.

Next consider how a degree from the school will be perceived in your intended field. Beyond mere calculations of ROI based on objective considerations of starting salary, what is the likely value of a degree from the school to your career? A school might have an overall great reputation (see my earlier post on prestige), but how is it perceived in your field? Is a graduate degree even valued? If so, how important is where you have it from?

Consider whether companies or organizations that you want to work for recruit from the school. After all if you want to work for the UN, GE Capital, Boston Consulting Group, etc., you would most certainly best be served by going to a school with the right recruiting history. While past performance is no guarantee of future success, it is a strong indicator of the likely outcome. This also applies to academic hiring as well. If the newly minted Ph.D.'s from the top ten program in your field that you considering applying to consistently get hired by small and medium middle ranked universities in the Midwest and Southwest, your chances to get immediately hired by Harvard or Princeton are likely to be remote. Realism and a willingness to do a little research will help you understand what you can expect as a result of having a degree from the a particular program. Additionally, such research will allow you to make the strongest possible case in your statement of purpose/goals essay about why a particular program best meets your professional objectives.

The value of the career services office should also be an important consideration for some applicants. The quality of such services vary greatly between schools and within schools. Generally speaking MBA programs have their own stand alone career services office, while other graduate programs may or may not have such offices. While the services will vary, a good career services office will help you practice interviewing, maximize the effectiveness of your resume, help you find internships, set-up on-campus recruiting, facilitate off-campus recruiting, and provide professional career counseling. A career services office is an integral and key part of top MBA programs. For those applying to programs outside of their home country who intend to return to their home country, the value of a career services office may not be that significant. I know from talking to many of my former Japanese clients who attended top US graduate schools that for purposes of getting hired back in Japan, The Boston Career Forum and recruiting connected to it was much more significant to them than the career services office.

Finally, if you are really uncertain about what you want to do after you graduate (what you write in your essays is a completely different issue), I suggest applying to schools where you be able to maximize your opportunities and that will help direct you into a post-degree career. That is to say, apply to programs that will provide you with career counseling, that have an established record of job placement, and can attract a wide group of recruiters. If you need help, you better go somewhere where you can get it.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to.
-Adam Markusアダム マーカス

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