It was a moment two years in the making for the students at the Graduate School of Public Policy. With diplomas in hand they are ready for the next step, which for some is still unclear because jobs are hard to come by.
"There was a lot of waiting at first because jobs that would've been available much earlier in February, we were told positions just haven't been released by because of budget crunch everywhere. So, it's been I think a real strain for people looking for local and state jobs," graduate Joe Levin told ABC 7.
An estimated 5,000 state workers will receive pink slips this weekend while locally in the East Bay, the Alameda County Work Force Investment Board says up to 20,000 more layoffs are expected over the next 12 months.
"I'm excited to be graduating," said Jaya Mehta. "But it's a bit scary that I don't have a job lined up."
Recent graduates in the Department of Public Health have been trying to land a job for months.
"Most of the time I've just not gotten a response back. Either that or if I've looked up places, they've either been applied to or there's just no openings available," said graduate Saira Hussain.
Cal's career center is working extra hard this year. In fact, reps sent out 15,000 letters to students recently letting them know they are doing everything they can to help with the job search. But, they also say students need to help themselves. Graduate school advisors are pushing students to start networking as soon as possible and widen their search field.
"We did start them earlier this year. We also asked them to have longer lists of employers. It's really important to not just target a few, but target a lot more this year because of the economy," said Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs Martha Chavez.
The persistence paid off for Joe Levin. He landed a job with the federal government where cutbacks are not happening as quickly as at the state level.
"There's a lot of opportunity in the federal government, but there's a lot of competition because everyone is flocking there," he said.
Others are rushing back to school and opting to pursue another degree instead of entering the job force.