Alumni Employment Trends Raise Questions about Degree Choices

Alumni Employment Trends Raise Questions about Degree Choices
Alumni Employment Trends Raise Questions about Degree Choices
Alumni Employment Trends Raise Questions about Degree Choices
Alumni Employment Trends Raise Questions about Degree Choices
Alumni Employment Trends Raise Questions about Degree Choices
Where is the largest concentration of SIPA alumni? Check out the employment trends for SIPA students since 2010.     By Sarayu Adeni and Xiaoshuang Ma With the new statistics from SIPA’s 2013 Annual Report, a look at employment trends since 2010 suggests deliberate movements between sectors. According to the latest report, a larger number of the surveyed students with Master of International Affairs (MIA) degrees were employed in the private sector. Conversely, Master of Public Administration (MPA) graduates were mostly employed in the public sector. When comparing data from 2010 to 2013, the report showed a sudden increase in the percentage of total MIA’s employed in the private sector, from 24 to 40.3 percent. MPAs have largely stayed in the public sector, and have gradually evened out to 30 percent of MPAs working in the private sector and 30 percent in the non-profit sector. While obvious factors – like the recovering job market – contribute to shifts in employment, there may be other reasons students lean toward some sectors over others. A recent conversation with Meg Heenehan, Executive Director of the Office of Career Services, revealed that one of the factors leading to this shift has to do with the privatization of the public sector. “SIPA opens a whole other choice for its students. It’s exciting that they can still do public sector work, but work in the private sector,” she said. “There’s energy and environmental consulting, there’s security and human rights consulting, and there’s political risk and development consulting.” Some SIPA students, however, still feel it necessary to pursue a dual degree, such as an MBA degree with Columbia Business School. Dan Solomon, a dual MIA and MBA student, took on the business degree to expand his understanding of technical topics like corporate finance, accounting and modeling. “Both degrees taken together provide a wide degree of understanding of both the public and private sectors, and especially the interaction between the two,” he said. Solomon, who will be interning at a real estate development company in New York this summer, believes SIPA’s brand is its focus on the wider world. “The global perspective from SIPA is valuable, specifically global regional studies,” he said. “An understanding of global politics has proven useful as politics have such a large impact on financial markets.” Another MIA and MBA dual-degree student, who requested anonymity, believes the two degrees complement each other. “The business school helps you understand nuances of underwriting, teaches you to build financial projections, and the sensitivity that comes with that,” the student said. “I am interested in working on the financing side of international development, so I need to understand finance, which I get from the Business School, blended with urban policy knowledge from SIPA.” The student will be interning at a management program for municipal financing at Citi Group over the summer. He told TMP that during the interview for his internship, the SIPA courses he took in Urban and Social Policy equipped him with a better understanding of urban government and municipal budgeting. But also added that he “couldn’t have even gotten in the door without an MBA degree.” But SIPA still tries to keep a foothold with other professional schools’ competition. For example, those who are not completing a dual degree with the business school can enter the International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP) concentration at SIPA to gain a similar set of skills. “For students who have the background, an IFEP degree can be more competitive than an MBA degree, especially if they are interested in working in emerging markets,” said Meg Heenehan. “There’s much more training in the international political and economic contexts of finance here. SIPA students can better understand what’s happening around the world. That’s what we bring to the table.” Some students choose an MPA or MIA degree simply because admission to the public health, journalism or business programs require more work experience. “I would have gone to business school if the MBA didn’t require at least two years of professional experience” said Jing Li (MPA ’15), who came to SIPA directly from undergraduate study. For these students, Heenehan offers the following advice: “SIPA does have a higher admissions rate than the Columbia Business School. But I think students should be careful not to treat SIPA as a backdoor to the business school, especially when they don’t have any work experience.” “In an economy that’s still coming out of a recession, it is going to be harder to get a job in the most competitive areas like investment banking or consulting” she continued. This doesn’t offer much comfort for SIPA’s soon-to-be IFEP graduates. Hopefully, career statistics in the 2014 SIPA Annual Report will positively forecast how they fare next year in the most competitive areas of the private sector. Sarayu Adeni is a first-year Master of Public Administration Development Practice student. Xiaoshuang Ma is a first-year Master of Public Administration student. This story first ran in the print edition of The Morningside Post on March 31, 2014  

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