Behind the Headlines Employment Prospects Bleak for Jews in Many Professional Fields, Experts Say
Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines Employment Prospects Bleak for Jews in Many Professional Fields, Experts Say

Download PDF for this date

For a substantial number of the estimated 90,000 to 100,000 Jewish young men and women now graduating with bachelors degree from American and Canadian colleges, the immediate future offers only bleak prospects for fulfillment of their hopes for professional careers.

Their plight has been dramatized, particularly since the onset of the 1974 recession, by the painful spectacle of the Ph.D, driving a cab. Not very many Ph.D.’s have, in fact, been forced to become cab drivers but a very large number of bachelor degree holders, particularly in the humanities, either have not found employment since 1974, or have been compelled to take low-paying jobs far below their abilities and skills.

To obtain specifics on the problem as it has affected the career fields traditionally attracting Jews and some estimates on whether the problem is transient or long-range, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency asked three New York experts for their assessments. They are Dr. Walter Duckat, director of the guidance division of the Federation Employment and Guidance Service; Elias Kagan, executive director of the B’nai B’rith Counseling Service office in New York; and Dr. Alan Groveman, supervising counselor in the B’nai B’rith office.


The three experts agreed generally that, for the immediate future at least, many career fields in which Jews have long predominated have not only ceased to offer job opportunities but also have suffered dismissals which have hit Jewish professionals hard. In the separate interviews, the three job experts agreed that, with a few specialized exceptions, public school teaching is currently a closed field. Thousands of Jewish teachers have been dismissed, notably in New York, where most of the career contractions since 1974 have been most damaging to professionals.

Teaching posts at the college level, another field with heavy Jewish representation, are in a similar squeeze, with few or no openings in many disciplines and widespread dismissals of younger faculty members. That situation stems partly from the fact that a bachelor’s degree in political science, sociology, psychology, philosophy, English literature–any of the humanities–has proved to be useless as a career tool. This has brought a shrinkage of enrollment in such courses and a parallel shrinkage in the need for faculties in those disciplines. Another factor is the impact of the steadily rising costs affecting private colleges and universities and the effect of the financial bind of local and state governments on publicly-supported higher education.

Duckat said commitment to masters and doctoral degrees, in the hope of appointment to college staffs, is not being recommended by the FEGS. He said this did not apply to some fields of engineering but he stressed–as did Kagan and Groveman–that the prospective student should not make a decision for advanced studies until after the most intensive review of all relevant information obtainable.


Kagan said bachelors degrees in the humanities should be considered only as a base for advanced studies, with the additional caveat that students planning such studies should be aware of the current lack of openings for college level teaching jobs in those fields.

He suggested that a Ph.D. In political science would be essential for an individual wanting a position in a research group, or in a lobbying agency or on a Congressional committee. He also said a political science BA could be the basis for study for a law degree. But Groveman and Duckat both felt this favorite field of Jews was now overcrowded. Groveman said there appeared to be jobs for patent and tax attorneys while opportunities were poor in criminal, corporate and environmental law.

Civil service, a field to which Jews have gravitated because hiring was on merit and job security was strong though pay was poor, also has been hard hit by governmental budget cutbacks, bringing a freeze in new employment and widespread dismissals. Social work, another favorite of Jews, has been hard hit because many such jobs are in government.

Medicine and dentistry, long-time goals for Jewish careerists present more of a problem of getting the degree than getting a job or starting a practice. Competition for admission into medical schools has become steadily more severe partly because medical school openings continue to be static in number. A large number of Jewish would-be doctors are studying overseas, a solution which has brought its own special problems. Students unable to get into medical schools are often opting for dentistry but in this field too, competition for entry was described as having become intense. (Part. Two in tomorrow’s Bulletin.)

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund