i 1 ---
Too iMeangj Profession6Iase
Legal, medical and business degrees once were golden
passkeys. Now they are losing some of their luster.
nee upon a time, the letters J.D., tion and federal cutbacks have also created
O1 M.D. and M.B.A. seemed to spell a glut of lawyers in Washington, D.C. In the
"guaranteed jobs." A diploma three highest-paid business fields-man-
from law, medical or business school was a agement consulting, investment banking
ticket to the good life, and new graduates and commercial banking-thousands of
had only one worry: how to choose among M.B.A. graduates areinterviewedeach year
all the tempting job offers. The work was but only 1 in 10 gets hired.
good, the pay was even better and the life-
style was comfortable. But the days of ometimes the appearance of a glut
automatically landing a plum job are over can be deceiving. Nationally, statis-
for most. One University of Texas Law tics show that the United States has
School student graduated in May 1982 just about as many doctors as it needs, but too
above the middle of her class and has yet to many live in upscale metropolitan centers
find a law job. "The people I send resumes and too few in rural and inner-city areas.
to just aren't hiring," she says, "or they've Most doctors choose big cities for their bet-
become very exclusive and will only take ter facilities and higher pay scales, especially
people from the top 10 percent." when they have tens of thousands of dollars
In part, the problem is one of supply and in educational debts, but there are personal
demand. In the past 20 years, enrollments in considerations, too. "Doctors, likeeveryone
professional schools have swelled-by a else, want to live in a setting where there are
factor of two in law and medicine and good schools for their children, cultural op-
almost five in business. But reports of portunities, commuting at a minimum,"
a doctor-lawyer-M.B.A. glut have been explains Dr. Howard Hyatt, dean of the
greatly oversimplified. Opportunities vary Harvard School ofPublic Health.
according to one's grades, graduate school, Popularity also creates surpluses in cer-
the place you want to work and the specialty tain specialties. Most law students want to
you have in mind. The most apparent prob- enter private practice-for personal and fi-
lem is in medicine, where there is an over- nancial reasons-and that means too few
supply of physicians in such specialties as lawyers in the public sector. John Sutton,
general surgery, pediatrics and ophthal- dean of the University of Texas Law School,
mology. Competition for law jobs is hottest points to shortages of legal-aid lawyers and
in the Northeast and California; deregula- public defenders. "The work is there," he
says, "but it's not highly paid work." Tom
Schwartz, a junior at the University of Tex-
as Medical Branch at Galveston, would
prefer to train in ophthalmology because
laser technology makes it "one of the more
dynamic areas of medicine right now," but
he knows the chances are slim. A friend who
graduated fourth in his class applied to 10
schools for an ophthalmology residency
and most wouldn't even interview him.
s the job market tightens, where
you study and how well you do are
more important than ever for pro-
fessional graduates. In business, says Abra-
ham Siegel, dean of the Sloan School of
Management'at MIT, those who talk of an
M.B.A. glut fail to distinguish "between a
person who comes from a place like Sloan or
Chicago and an M.B.A. who gets third- or
fourth-tier training." For those at lesser-
known schools, this can be very frustrating.
"It's a market-shakedown problem," says
Gilbert Whitaker Jr., dean of the University
of Michigan business school. "There are a
lot of less-well-prepared graduates."
Institutions have responded to the chang-
ing job market in many ways, from trim-
ming class size to pumping up curricula in
areas that show promise. The Duke Univer-
sity Medical School will reduce its class size
from 114 to 100 by 1990, in response to pro-
jections of an overabundance of physicians.
MIT hopes to ride the crest of the new tech-
nological wave by offering a new two-year
dual degree in business and engineering this
fall. After the Midwestern job market start-
ed drying up, Indiana began trying to win a
national reputation for its business school
so that its M.B.A.'s could cast a wider net.
Professional students are also taking ex-
tra steps to make themselves marketable.
Some are combining business and law de-
grees or getting work experience before
going on to grad school. When choosing
a school, it's important to know the
program's specific strengths. More than
one-third of Michigan's M.B.A.'s, for ex-
ample, go into aerospace, electronics or
transportation. Students must also keep up
with trends within disciplines: tax law and
patent law, for example, are "hot special-
ties"; in medicine, psychiatry, preventive
medicine and gerontology (box, page 6) of-
fer good opportunities, and it's no secret
that information systems and computers
are shaping up as growth areas in business.
Above all, students need to strike a careful
balance between desire and reality-choos-
ing a career direction that appeals to them,
while recognizing the job possibilities in an
increasingly competitive marketplace. "I
encourage people to defy statistics," says
Linda Stantial, placement director at Sloan,
"but they must be mindful of the employ-
ment prospects and be aware of the odds."
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