Public sector, nonprofit jobs see increase in college applicants

Allison Harris

During difficult economic times, college graduates may be more willing to consider lower-paying jobs outside the corporate sector, said Communication Career Services Director of Placement Matthew Berndt.

In 2009, 16 percent more college graduates across the nation worked for the federal government than in 2008, according to a New York Times analysis of American Community Survey data. That same year, there was an 11-percent increase in graduates working for nonprofit groups, according to the article.

Berndt said the recession has made college graduates consider more than just salary when looking for a job.
“It’s gotten job seekers to consider other alternatives and not put blinders on and decide they know what they’re going to do without really knowing first,” he said.

Berndt said he expects the number of government jobs available to college students to stagnate or decrease as agencies on every level face budget deficits. He also said he expects the number of graduates employed in nonprofits to decline when the economy recovers.

“When the economy takes off again, and these same corporate people can see that now they can make a whole lot more money back in the corporate world, then they switch back,” he said. “They’re willing to take the trade-off of less stable for greater money.”

Lana Morris, a career services coordinator for the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said the percentage of graduates from the LBJ school employed in the public sector dropped from 64 percent in 2007 to about 49 percent in 2008. Morris said the large drop occurred when government outsourced work to the private sector.

“I’m seeing a little bit of a trend in the public sector of going back to direct hiring, so I expect that to build again,” she said.

Morris said public service sector employment decreased to 42 percent in 2009 and rose to 46 percent in 2010. In 2008, the percent of graduates employed in the nonprofit sector was 22 percent. That figure rose to 27 percent in 2009 and dipped to 22 percent in 2010.

Morris said cuts to government budgets would likely increase the percentage of public affairs graduates employed in the nonprofit sector.

“As government services end or cut, the nonprofit sector will step up and help replace some of those services,” she said.

Morris said the percentage of graduates employed in the public sector will increase despite budget cuts.

“Many, many thousands of public employees will be retiring in the next five to six years,” she said. “I think that’s going to dramatically increase the hiring that they have to [do], in spite of budget cuts.”

Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach for the non-partisan group Partnership for Public Service, said more college students have been interested in working for the federal government since 2008. He attributed this to both the economy and more students being interested in making a difference.

“A lot of schools, whether it’s at the elementary school level, middle school level, high school, even college, have been pushed more to engage in volunteer activities,” he said. “I think that students have actually embraced that with open arms.”