In Canada, MBA Students Hunker Down

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Students in MBA programs at Canadian universities are hunkering down as the economy worsens.

Both job and internship opportunities appear to be dwindling as companies keep a clamp on hiring. Many MBA students plan to enter the financial services business, according to officials at these schools.

Though Canadian banks have outperformed their U.S. counterparts and recently posted strong quarterly earnings, recruiters have said their hiring is less robust than it's been in previous years. In response, some students are extending their studies in the hopes of gaining an edge in the job market with additional degrees and certifications such as the CFA.

"I don't sugar coat it," says Ian Lee, the director of the MBA program at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business, who estimates that enrollment is up about 20 percent. The problems with the economy "represent a postponement of their dreams or their plans. Their career may be starting a year or two later than they expected."

Banks are hiring less this year, he observes, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the graduating class's prospects. About 44 percent of last year's graduates from the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Business were employed in the financial services industry, according to a report on the university's Web site. They received salaries of C$57,000 to C$134,000 with signing bonuses of C$4,000 to C$30,000. They were hired in fields ranging from investment banking to investment research, sales and trading.

For Rotman, the problem of finding graduates work is international is scope. About 44 percent of its MBA class of 2010 are from outside Canada, including the U.S.

As alternatives, students are pursing careers in the government, according to Lee. Recruiters say MBA students have little choice but to be flexible.

"The number of offers this year is going to be down for sure, so what we are advising at this point is to have a Plan B, and possibly even a Plan C, and not to sit back and wait for traditional campus recruiting to come at you with jobs," Joseph Palumbo, executive director of career development at York University's Schulich School of Business, told the Financial Post.

Palumbo told the paper internship opportunities are down by 15 percent and that the number of jobless graduates will rise given the lack of investment banking jobs. He estimated that average pay for MBA graduates is down by 5 to 10 percent.

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