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Degrees Dropping in a Hot Job Market

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2000
The demand for workers skilled in photonics has created a seller's market for students possessing any related background. The choices these students are making today could affect the photonics industry of tomorrow.

Daniel C. McCarthy, Senior News Editor

Students preparing for a career in photonics could take a lesson from professional gamblers, who understand that the secret to success is knowing when to quit.

Right now, overall unemployment in the US hovers around 4 percent, and in many industries, such as semiconductors and telecommunications, the demand for optical technicians, engineers and researchers outpaces supply. The class of 2000 is entering a seller's market in which a bachelor of science degree can score multiple job offers or a generous sign-on bonus. High academic scores or a graduate degree only increases the odds of winning perks and benefits unheard-of 10 years ago. The question facing many students is whether to cash in now with a basic diploma or to delay gratification another two to five years for an advanced degree that can parlay into bigger profits in both pay and career options.

Several schools reported difficulty in recruiting and holding master's candidates. After their senior year, students seem inclined either to enter the job market or to pursue a PhD. Ten years ago, the job market would have reflected this dearth of master's degrees with a dearth of optical engineers. But as the demand for engineers has reached a fever pitch, some bachelor's degree students can leverage their way into these positions, particularly at small start-up businesses.


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