Grads Turn to Public Service Jobs

public service jobsStudents set to graduate in May might be spending more time analyzing the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Situation than finishing senior thesis papers. The 8.9% unemployment rate for February is enough to scare anyone into choosing the five-year plan. But public service jobs are one way that students can avoid becoming another sad unemployment statistic.

Positions with the federal government saw a 16% increase among young college graduates while nonprofit groups saw an 11% increase in 2009, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the American Community Survey of the United States Census Bureau. The BLS Employment Situation shows that jobs continue to increase in the service-providing sector with a gain of 47,000 jobs.

More and more students turn to public service jobs such as the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA and Teach for America, based on job security.Teach for America celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2010 with more than 46,000 applicants -- a 32% increase from the previous year. Teach for America is the top employer of graduating seniors at 40 universities, including Yale, according to TFA founder Wendy Kopp.

Teach for America not only offers a guaranteed public service job for two years, but it also boosts grad school and employment partnerships as well as a strong network of alums. Sixty-five percent of TFA alums stay in the education field -- one industry where the BLS expects to see a growth of 8% between 2008 and 2018.

AmeriCorps offers 75,000 public service opportunities, which come with the public service loan-forgiveness program and the income-based repayment plan so that students can manage their loans while serving. Eighty-seven percent of AmeriCorps alums continue to work in public service employment after completing their time with the organization.

While the graduates of 2008 were able to cash in on large private-sector paychecks, those of 2009 and 2010 sought low-paying, but more rewarding, public service jobs. The New York Times reports that the federal government increased payrolls by 3% while the private sector lost 7% of its jobs.

But is it just a coincidence that Millennials are gravitating toward public service jobs?

John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard's Institute of Politics, says no. According to an article by Della Volpe in Governing, 60% of the federal workforce is 45 or older. With this large percentage of workers on the verge of retirement, the civic-minded Millennial generation is ripe to take their place.

He writes, "... service and community is an integral part of who they are; it's in their generation's DNA."

With Baby Boomers flocking to Facebook, it may prime time for Millennials to move in on the federal job market.
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