Yalies from the class of 2015 are increasingly pursuing risk-averse positions immediately after graduation, earning higher salaries and working for larger firms than their counterparts from the classes of 2013 and 2014, although the reason for this change remains up for debate.
Since 2013, the Office of Career Strategy has administered the “First Destination Survey” to recent Yale College graduates to keep track of what students are doing in the months following commencement. OCS sent out this year’s survey in May, and the survey closed on Nov. 30, six months later. In total, 1,126 members of the class of 2015 took the survey, for a 90.7 percent response rate.
This year’s data, which OCS provided to the News, suggests that high-paying fields like finance are on the up-and-up, while the number of students doing research has declined markedly. For the first two years the survey was sent out, research topped the list of the most common activities pursued by undergraduates after graduation. However, this year it saw a drop, falling to the third most common employment function after consulting and finance.
Jeanine Dames, director of OCS and associate dean of Yale College, said the shift may be a result of people having more difficulty obtaining research grants, many of which come from the government. She pointed out that while the National Institutes of Health has historically been one of the top eight organizations employing the greatest number of Yale graduates six months out, it did not make the list this year.
Professors at the School of Medicine confirmed Dames’ theory. Daniel DiMaio, a professor at the School of Medicine, said budget constraints at the NIH have made research opportunities difficult, adding that this may have deterred some students from going into research.
David Schatz, another medical school professor, echoed DiMaio.
“It is certainly true that the low paylines and challenging fund situations at NIH have created an environment for research that has an elevated level of stress and anxiety, with more time having to be devoted to raising money to do the research rather than actually doing the research,” he said. “It could be a cumulative effect of that sort of atmosphere that has discouraged students from entering that career path.”
Whereas research dominated the career destination charts in 2013 and 2014, consulting and finance — which have historically ranked in the top four most common jobs for young alumni but have never taken the highest spot — emerged on top this year. Over the past three years, the number of first-year graduates working in finance roles almost doubled, from 8.8 percent to 15.7 percent. In contrast, the number of alumni pursuing research decreased from 16.2 percent to 12.8 percent in the past year.
Recent alumni are also making more money at larger firms, the data shows: The most recent OCS survey found that 39.4 percent of respondents started with a salary over $70,000, a significant increase from the 26.3 percent reported two years ago. Data from OCS also shows that whereas 10.6 percent of the respondents in 2013 reported starting salaries of less than $20,000, the number plummeted to 2.3 percent in 2015.
This change may be attributed to a more favorable job market for recent grads, Dames said. The U.S. economy has been steadily improving over the past few years, which could have opened up more high-paying positions at large companies.
Indeed, more young alumni are working at large companies too: Whereas 44.5 percent of the respondents in 2013 said they worked in companies with over 500 employees, this number grew to 50.6 percent for the most recent class of graduates. Conversely, while 31.4 percent reported working in firms with less than 50 employees in 2013, this number dropped to 26.7 percent this year.
Still, Jason Abaluck, a professor at the School of Management, cautioned that attributing the changes to an improved economy may be overly simplistic.
“It’s lot more subtle than that,” Abaluck said. “I’m guessing that the relative wages in the finance sector are higher than in other sectors, which may explain the increase.”
In addition, more of the highest-paid recent grads are working in the technology industry than in the other two years the survey was administered. Among the highest-paid graduates with a starting salary of over $100,000, less than 25 percent work in the financial services industry, whereas a whopping almost 60 percent work in the technology sector. In 2013, these numbers were nearly flipped, as 54.8 percent worked in the financial sector and 32.3 percent worked in technology.
Interestingly, Dames said, the report mirrored the results published last month in the yearly summer activities survey, which details current students’ summer plans. The data from that survey showed that Yale students on the whole were pursuing more paid opportunities than unpaid internships in comparison to previous years — findings that are consistent with the First Destination Survey’s results that more recent graduates are finding paid jobs than in past years.
Also, in a shift from 2013 and 2014, Singapore and Israel were among the top countries of choice outside of the U.S. for the class of 2015. Typically, the United Kingdom, China, India and Germany have been on the list, but the last two did not make it this year. Dames said the high number of students moving to Singapore may be due to employment by Yale-NUS.
This year’s First Destination Report is set to be published online later this week.