MIT Reports to the President 1995-96


The year saw a bull market for MIT talent. Unlike the bull market on Wall Street, which showed signs of faltering in the spring, employers continued to solicit resumes up to graduation. Upwards of 600 employers (including divisions of companies making their own recruiting arrangements) used the facilities of the office to interview candidates. This compares with 442 in 1994-95 and 393 in 1993-94. It is doubtful that the office has ever seen more traffic in its seventy-year history.

That the office has never been busier can be said with assurance of the quarter-century since 1969 when the present director, who retires this year, assumed his responsibilities. Buoying the market was a voracious demand from employers for graduates with software skills. It came from every corner of the economy - from the computer industry, from software firms and firms engaged in information systems consulting, and from firms of all sorts in manufacturing and the service sector using computers in their business. We do not have exact numbers yet, but we estimate that as many as 5 out of 6 employers interviewing on campus listed "computer science" as a desired discipline. Many were also looking for students with other skills, but many only wanted students with a computer science background. Among these, many wanted a high level of proficiency (as indicated, for example by a degree in 6-3); others were willing to take students from any department who had learned something about programming along the way. Five years ago students in electrical engineering were sought by as many employers as students with software skills. Last year software skills were requested by four employers for every three requesting electrical engineering. This year the ratio is likely to have tilted still further.

Over a quarter of all the firms recruiting this year were entirely devoted to software, as developers of software or as information systems consultants. This is up from a fifth (19.4 percent) three years ago, 6.9 percent in 1982-83, and a scant 1.5 percent in 1969-70 (not including a few software firms on Department of Defense contracts). The software industry has opened a sphere of activity for graduates which was barely imagined in 1969 and which challenges classification. Does it belong with manufacturing or with the service sector? For that matter, where does the writing of software fit among the technical disciplines? Does the term "computer science" make it a science, or does it fit more naturally with engineering? However one settles these issues, the industry appeals to students. It is young, it offers lots of opportunity for individual inventiveness, and it welcomes entrepreneurs. Many of the firms coming this year advertised the fact that they were started by MIT graduates and they wanted more bright sparks from the Institute to join them.

Changing mix of employers recruiting at the Careers Office

Oil, chemicals, materials, food
Pharmaceuticals, medical research
Biomedical devices, hospital products
Computers & components, communications
Other civilian electronics
Mechanical & electro-mechanical products
Design, construction, engineering services
Utilities (power & light)

DOD & DOE contractors, federally-funded labs
Government agencies, armed services

Software firms
Information systems consulting
Management consulting, economics consulting, etc.
Financial institutions



While the market was especially strong for students with software skills it was also strong for students with other interests. There was a welcome jump in recruiting, for example, by firms building mechanical and electro-mechanical equipment. Recruiting by builders of computing and communications equipment was also up significantly. We hosted more manufacturers of biomedical devices. We also saw more financial houses looking for students from any major with good analytical and interpersonal skills. The number of oil and chemical firms coming on campus held steady with the year before. So did the number of DoD and DoE contractors and the number of management and economics consulting firms, which, in a rising market, reduced their respective percentage showings on the recruiting roster.

Back in 1969-70 only four management consulting firms thought to recruit through our office. On the other hand we greeted 68 firms in the category "oil, chemicals, materials, food", - three times the number we hosted this year. Interestingly, there were only 95 graduates in chemical engineering that year (at all degree levels) for them to talk to. Clearly MIT students had not heeded the legendary career advice given to Dustin Hoffman three years before in The Graduate, "I want to say one word to you - just one word - plastics".

The industrial world then was dominated by big companies. So was campus recruiting. John Kenneth Galbraith offered the opinion in 1967 in his best-seller The New Industrial State that only large companies could raise the capital modern technology needed or assemble a large enough technical staff. To believe anything else was "drivel". He went on: "The small firm cannot be restored by breaking the power of the large ones. It would require, rather, the rejection of technology". One of the most auspicious developments in the past quarter-century has been the success of small companies, often led by MIT graduates, in proving him wrong.

This year 1,687 students had employment interviews in our facilities, among them 900 undergraduates (including students not yet graduating interviewing for summer jobs), 514 master's degree candidates, 255 doctoral candidates, and 18 postdocs. There seemed to be more opportunities for PhDs in industry this year than in the past but times are still hard for them. More than 300 PhD students went to hear McKinsey talk about its interest in hiring PhDs as management consultants; 200 went to a similar presentation by Boston Consulting Group. As in past years a steady stream of PhD students came to the office to discuss their career options, including the opportunities for them in consulting and finance. They are among our most attentive and appreciative clients.

The strong market had a positive effect on salary offers. For example, the median offer to bachelors in computer science (Course 6-3 to be precise) rose 7.5 percent, to $43,000. The median offer to masters was up 4.0 percent, to $52,000. In electrical engineering the median offer to bachelors rose 7.7 percent to $42,000, the median offer to masters 4.2 percent to $50,000. In mechanical engineering offers to bachelors were up 4.3 percent to $41,700, but to masters up only 2.3 percent to $48,060. A typical base salary offer to a bachelor joining an investment bank or a management consulting firm was $40,000, up 8.1 percent from last year. Salary offers to PhDs in engineering were widely spread, ranging from the mid-fifties to the mid-eighties, but with $70,000 roughly the median.


The office was as busy assisting medical school candidates as it was welcoming recruiters. We do not have final figures on how many MIT candidates completed the application process, still less how many were accepted, but 254 enlisted the help of the office in filing their applications. There is no question that the Institute has never fielded more candidates. The number is up from a total of 201 MIT candidates in 1995 and 187 in 1994. The 254 this year included153 undergraduates, 29 graduate students, and 72 alumni. There has been a corresponding surge in the number of applicants across the nation, with the total number rising from 26,915 as recently as 1989 to 49,591 in 1995. Meanwhile the number of first-year places in medical schools has barely changed. As a consequence, the national acceptance rate dropped from 59 percent in 1989 to 35 percent last year. We are proud that 59 percent of MIT's candidates last year were accepted (62 of the 103 undergraduates, 4 of the 6 graduate students, and 52 of the 92 alumni). The odds on getting in will have been longer again this year, but we have no doubt that our candidates will continue to have done well.

The director looks back on the past quarter-century with pleasure. It is hard to think of another job which would give the same opportunity to watch the changing interplay of technology and business, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, and to meet so many of the actors, from students (as bright as any in the world) itching to get a piece of the action to leading players who have already made a difference. It has been a stimulating and rewarding experience, made all the more so by a wonderful team of colleagues. Elizabeth Reed, a long-standing member of the team, has been appointed Interim Director to serve during the reengineering of student services.

Robert K. Weatherall

MIT Reports to the President 1995-96