For the third straight year, Teach for America was the largest employer of Yale graduates.

With the economy poised to rebound, about 250 students in the Class of 2010 applied to work for TFA — 18 percent of graduating seniors, according to data supplied by Undergraduate Career Services. Last year’s recruitment statistics demonstrate the growing trend of Yale seniors — and college students in general — signing on with TFA, which places recent college graduates at underprivileged schools for two-year teaching commitments. Still, UCS Director Phil Jones said in en e-mail last month that education has always been a popular career choice for recent Yale graduates, and seniors interviewed said TFA is a stable option for recent graduates.

“Teach for America is great for Yalies because it shares two of Yale’s biggest emphases: leadership and public service,” said Jake McGuire ’10, who fielded offers in marketing, but accepted a TFA position as a high school science teacher in Greenwood, Miss.

Across the nation, applications rose from 35,000 in 2009 to 46,000 in 2010. The heightened interest in TFA has only intensified competition for spots, with the nonprofit selecting just over 12 percent of applicants, Emily Blatter, TFA’s Yale campus coordinator, said.

TFA will expand its first- and second-year corps membership from 8,200 to 13,500 by fall 2014 with funding from a $50 million grant from the federal Investing in Innovation program, she said.

Blatter said she anticipates that TFA will remain highly selective despite its plans to grow, and current seniors applying to TFA seem to share this belief. To consider TFA as a back-up plan is to forget that the hiring rate is as competitive as those of many consulting firms and banks, said one senior, who asked to remain anonymous because his application to TFA is still pending.

Jones said that “finance and consulting” sometimes beats out education as the top industry students work in after graduating from Yale. But even in those years, and “regardless of the state of the economy,” Jones said, education is among the two most popular fields for Yale graduates.

Ten seniors interviewed said that TFA is a good job for a student graduating in a difficult job market — it pays a beginning teacher’s salary, which ranges from $30,000 to $51,500 depending on the region. Blatter said she thinks the economy is empowering young people to think more freely about their career options and how they can make a difference.

Jacqueline Erickson ’10 said she knew at the start of her senior year that she wanted to work for TFA and is now a corps member in Kansas City, MO. Erickson said TFA offered both the opportunity to do non-profit work and the nationwide support network to make it effective.

All TFA corps members undertake a five-week intensive training institute over the summer.

Correction: October 13, 2010

An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Jake McGuire ’10 was fielding offers in both marketing and banking before accepting a position from Teach for America. He was only considering a job in marketing, which he declined for TFA.