| CAMBRIDGE, Mass.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Feb 13 For decades,
investment banking was a well-worn path to affluence for
business-school graduates. But as Wall Street teeters, many are
scrambling to find alternate routes into a brutal job market.
Facing one of the worst economic downturns since the Great
Depression, some Masters of Business Administration students
are lowering expectations. Aspiring investment bankers are
looking elsewhere, while international students wonder if they
will have better luck at home than in the United States.
As big banks including Citigroup Inc (C.N), Bank of America
Corp (BAC.N) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) cut tens of
thousands of jobs, MBA students who just a few years ago would
have been aggressively recruited by companies now expect to
fight for the handful of positions available.
Meghan Gallery, 24, enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology's Sloan School of Management in September with
hopes of working on mergers and acquisitions at an investment
bank. Now, she would consider a summer job at a start-up
company, ideally in corporate finance.
"I've literally had people say, 'Hopefully, when you get
out it will be different. But if not, there will still be a lot
of bodies floating around who have been in finance for five to
10 years more than you'," she said.
Shrinkant Dave, 26, an MBA candidate at Boston University
who is originally from India, made a similar decision,
accepting a corporate finance job at a retail chain rather than
holding out for investment banking.
"I knew there were not enough jobs to go around, so I had
to improvise," Dave said. "It's slightly disappointing, but not
too bad. It's still in line with my goals."
MBA students face a radically changed job market.
U.S. employers in January cut payrolls by the most in 34
years, and President Barack Obama has called for a $500,000 cap
on pay of chief executives of companies that receive federal
bailout money. Wall Street has shed more than 19,000 jobs since
the start of the financial crisis.
General Electric Co (GE.N) chief executive Jeff Immelt
summed it up in a presentation in New York in early February:
"Financial services ain't going to be the same in our
LOOKING WAY BEYOND WALL STREET
Career counselors at MBA programs are urging students to be
open-minded about the jobs they will accept and to pursue
aggressively those that are available. While companies are
still sending recruiters to campuses, they are not hiring as
many people. MIT officials estimated that recruiters on its
campus were offering 20 percent fewer positions this year.
Moreoever, MBAs are not a rare breed. More than 150,000 MBA
degrees were awarded in United States in the 2006 to 2007
academic year, according to government data.
"They have to be open" to different routes to getting a
Wall Street job, said Diane Riemer, assistant director for
graduate career services at Boston University's School of
Management. Riemer said she advises MBA candidates to think
about "bridge strategies," positions that could serve as
stepping stones to get students toward their dream jobs.
In addition to considering a wider variety of jobs and
industries, students said they are considering more geographic
options -- like moving to emerging nations where multinationals
and big local companies are still beefing up staff.
"People need to be a little more flexible," said Ignacio
Diaz, 28, a native of Venezuela studying at MIT's Sloan School.
"Not thinking only about moving to New York for finance, for
example, but looking at other centers, like perhaps London,
perhaps the Middle East or Asia."
Some students from outside the United States are
considering whether they would be better off returning home,
particularly those from still-growing economies like Brazil,
China and India -- though growth there has slowed too.
"I was looking to do a lot of work in the U.S., but one of
the suggestions I got was that this is the right opportunity to
go and explore," said Anand Mohanrangan, 26, an MIT Sloan
student also originally from India. "I am trying to see what
are the opportunities I could have to go back to India."
A downside to moving to emerging markets could be lower
pay, some students fear.
"People pay a lot of money to get here and the return on
investment is higher here than if you go back," said Mahesh
Konduru, 34, an Indian student at MIT's Sloan School in
FACING BIG DEBTS
The programs are costly. Last year the typical full-time
MBA candidate attending a school outside his or her home state
paid $32,333 per year for tuition and fees, a number that's
risen 25 percent over the past five years, according to the
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
That does not take into account books or living expenses,
which many full-time students also take out loans to cover.
Compounding those concerns, many have taken on tens of
thousands of dollars of debt to finance their educations.
"I am worried about it, more worried than I thought I'd
be," said Matt Yosca, 32, in his final year at the MBA program
at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Students who are using loans to cover living expenses said
they are trying to cut back spending, just to minimize the
amount of debt they will face after graduating.
"I'm trying not to spend too much from the loans," said
David Spevick, 27, who is from Toronto and is now studying for
his MBA at Boston University. He lives alone but will probably
seek a roommate to save money.
Educators console students with the thought that the
difficult economy will toughen them up and better prepare them
for hard times later in their careers.
"There is no doubt that the students who are coming out
today will be more wary of credit risks, more careful," said
Andrew Lo, a professor at MIT's Sloan school, who spearheaded
the school's launch of a finance track this year. "You learn
nothing from success. You learn far more from failure."
(Editing by Jason Szep and Philip Barbara)