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More College Students Pursuing Careers In Public Service

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
May 12, 2009

The economic downturn and President Barack Obama's popularity have prompted many college students to consider careers in public service.

The Seattle Times reports that at the University of Washington, fall applications for students wanting to pursue a graduate degree in public administration have increased 33 percent since last year. Moreover, business undergraduate majors have fallen by 22 percent.

Nevertheless, university officials say that the shift to public service can even be seen in business schools. "The big long-term trend is that huge numbers of students want to change the world," said Dan Poston, assistant dean for master's programs at UW's Foster School of Business. "They are interested in ethics, corporate responsibility and helping the developing world."

He noted that more than one-third of business administration graduate applications now mention these altruistic goals, while just a few years ago such ambitions were seldom brought up. In addition, more business students are considering government jobs.

CBS News reports that according to The Partnership for Public Service, an organization which strives to increase awareness about the need for public service, there's been a surge of interest in federal jobs since November. Students commented that they were attracted to government jobs because of its stability, the lack of jobs elsewhere and Obama's call to service.

Such was the case with UW graduate student Shella Biallas, who always wanted a career in public service but only recently considered pursuing a federal job. She told The Seattle Times that she was inspired by Obama's victory and recently landed a Presidential Management Fellowship allowing her to work with the U.S. Department of Energy.

"People now are charging things up and making a difference," she said.

In a related story, the Chicago Tribune reports that college graduates are flocking to volunteer for programs such as Teach for America, where graduates serve for two years in school districts across the country. This year, the organization saw a 42 percent increase in applications. Similarly, applications to AmeriCorps--a federal program which places volunteers with non-profit organizations--increased by 200 percent since last year.

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