Why College Grads Are Turning To Public Service

2009 and 2010 were the wrong years to graduate from college, especially for students seeking entry-level positions in the corporate world.

After four years of college tuition, many students simply could not afford to pursue an M.B.A. and were then forced to test the waters of the job market. However, in the corporate world, jobs were scarce, leaving thousands of college students unemployed after graduation.

The solution: public service careers.

In 2009, 16% more recent college graduates took jobs with the federal government than in 2008, and 11%  more took jobs with nonprofit groups, according to an article in the New York Times, which cited data from the American Community Survey of the United States Census Bureau.

Studies also found that an increasing number of 2010 college graduates took careers with public service sectors.

“It’s not uncommon for me to hear of over 100 applications for a nonprofit position, sometimes many more than that, and many more Ivy League college graduates applying than before,” said Diana Aviv, chief executive of Independent Sector, a trade group for. “Some of these people haven’t been employed for a while and are happy to have something. But once they’re there, they’ve recalibrated and reoriented themselves toward public service.”

This public service interest is fairly ubiquitous across America, as applications for AmeriCorps positions nearly tripled to 258,829 in 2010 from 91,399 in 2008. Teach for America applications rose 32% last year, to a record high of 46,359. Also, students are now taking a much stronger interest in colleges’ departments of public interest, flooding some with record numbers.

However, the economy was not the only factor to boost interest in public service sectors. President Barack Obama could have played a major role as well, according to some experts. While campaigning, the president tried to make public service sectors “cool” and appealing to young people. And the effect, significant increases in public service interest.

Other experts believe that millennials, who grew up in the 1990s or 21st century, are much more big-hearted and sympathetic than other generations, possibly because of the community service they were forced to do throughout school.

“The millennial generation is a generation that is just more interested in making a difference than making a dollar,”said Max Stier, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that advises government recruiting efforts.

However, most believe the recession is still the main driving force behind this movement. Since the recession began three years ago, the private sector has cut 7% of its jobs; in the same time period, the federal government has increased its payroll 3%.

Graduates in 2009 and 2010 were hit the hardest by the recession. Most 2008 graduates didn’t have nearly as much trouble, as they found jobs in their desired, corporate areas. Recent 2009 and 2010 graduates had to stretch to find careers, and many of them did not get their desired jobs, being forced to adapt their skills and degrees to public service sectors.

For the most part, the pay for entry-level employees in public service markets is not as high as it is for corporate jobs; however, the differences are fairly negligible. But, after a few years of experience, managers and other employees in private sectors earn about 22% more than those in nonprofit sectors.