December, 12, 2018
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw:--
I am a sophomore at the University of Chicago and in the process of deciding on a career in law or business. What are the job prospects for each of these professions given the current state of the economy? A master of business administration program takes two years and law school takes three years to complete. I hear horror stories about students graduating with thousands of dollars of debt and weak job prospects. If I don’t go to graduate school, what are my chances of finding a good job? —A student
Students must weigh job prospects
debt in post-graduate plans
You do have options. If you are a top student, with excellent SAT scores (yes, many companies require them) and strong analytical skills, chances are you will probably have multiple job offers when you finish your undergraduate degree. This option will allow you to have a few years to adjust to the work world, pay down undergraduate debt and perhaps save for graduate school. If you are a plodder, and plan to take five years to complete your undergraduate degree, you may face a fewer job offers. Typically, most students at the University of Chicago do not fall into the latter category, or you would not have been admitted in the first place. Some students flounder as undergraduates at less competitive colleges and end up not being good candidates for either the job market or graduate school. Newly minted MBAs from top schools usually have multiple job offers, with median pay typically reaching into the mid-six figures. Starting salaries for less prestigious schools remain in the double digits. Law school graduates face a similar fate when it comes to debt which often totals $150,000 plus for graduates from a private school.
This means that you have some pretty serious decisions to make about whether to pursue an MBA or a law degree. You will have to weigh the value of each choice.
Unfortunately, the job prospects for new lawyers tend to be bleak thanks to the economic market and technological innovation. Law schools have been slow to change curriculum to meet the challenges of educating students to meet the changes in the profession today.
What is your current field of study? It has been said that a STEM major may have a brighter future in law school because you can specialize in patents or intellectual property as an attorney. A liberal arts major with a J.D. may have less job success. About a third of law school graduates are taking jobs that do not require a J.D.
If you are set on law school, I highly suggest that you read the second edition of Richard Susskind’s book “Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An introduction to Your Future.” In it, the author — a leading expert on the law — explores concerns within the legal profession, such as diminishing pubic funding and he explores roles of future lawyers in a world now dominated by IT.
If you ask today’s lawyers what they think about the worth of a law degree they will often say, “It depends.” While the perceived value of a law degree remains high, a large percentage of law graduates say that they are struggling because of the debt they incurred and the lack of job opportunities.
It is not an easy choice, but it is not too late to gear your coursework to a career that you are passionate about. Take advantage of internships (either paid or unpaid) so that you get a taste of the business world. This should help you make your decision about post-graduate work.
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