Off to Work They Go

Continuing what seems to be a trend, more recent Yale College graduates have opted to enter the working world directly after school than their counterparts did in years past. And among those going on to post-graduate education, fewer than ever before have chosen to pursue the arts and sciences.

That’s what Yale University’s Office of Institutional Research –OIR – found, based on a questionnaire that was mailed to all 1,253 graduates of the Yale College Class of 1996 one year after graduation, requesting information about their activities during the 1996-97 academic year. The overall response rate was 81 percent. Similar surveys have been carried out since 1974.

During the past 25 years, there has been a steady and dramatic increase in the percentage of new graduates who entered employment. In 1971, 21 percent of Yale graduates went to work right after college. In 1975, 36 percent; in 1980, 50 percent; in 1985, 60 percent; and in 1996, 65 percent.

What work are they pursuing? Jobs in education, including teaching and research, have grown steadily from a low of four percent in 1971 to the current 13 percent. Business and finance have fluctuated over the years, from a low of eight percent in 1975 to a high of 17 percent in 1985, down to 10 percent in 1992, and back up to 17 percent in 1996. Employment in the health fields have attracted only about one percent of Yale graduates since 1975, with the exception of 1992, when six percent went in that direction.

Corresponding to the increase in employment, there has been a decrease in the number enrolling in graduate or professional school right after college. In 1970, close to half–46 percent–of new Yale graduates went directly on to higher education. As recently as 1994, 35 percent did. In 1996, only 29 percent made that choice. An additional 41 percent of the 1996 graduates report that they expect to go on to some kind of graduate or professional study in the near future, which would bring the total to 70 percent–about average since 1985.

In 1970, 16 percent pursued graduate study in the arts and sciences. Only six percent took this route in 1996–the lowest percentage ever recorded by the Office of Institutional Research.

Law school, the choice for about 15 percent of graduates the first year out of Yale from 1971-1980, declined to eight percent in 1985 and has remained approximately at that rate since then. About one quarter of the graduates who plan to seek post-graduate degrees in the near future hope to attend law school. That has held nearly constant since 1987.

Medical school attracted 12 percent of the Class of 1971 and 17 percent of the Class of 1975, but in 1987 only five percent made it their choice. That number has steadily climbed since 1990, and the 1996 figure was 10 percent.

“As post-graduate surveys go among the Ivy League schools, the response rate to this short survey is extraordinarily high,” said Beverly Waters, research associate at the OIR and coordinator of the project. “Yale graduates are eager to let us know what they are doing, and there is significant interest on the part of the college deans, masters and department chairs in following the trends in employment and post-college study of the Yale College graduating classes. The survey data help us to advise undergraduates and to evaluate programs and activities, so our graduates’ responses are a valuable resource of information.”

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