The average bonus has dropped by more than a third and the financial sector has lost more than $35 billion in revenue this year.
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In response to these huge losses, some Wall Street firms have either rescinded offers that they had extended to potential employees or delayed their start date, in some cases even paying graduates to start later.
"Finance was so lucrative that everybody wanted to get into it," said Joe Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning professor of economics at Columbia University. But, he said, "our financial markets failed and failed enormously."
Louisa Vertun, who recently graduated from Columbia Business School, has not yet been able to find a job. She expected to receive a job after getting hired for a high paying summer internship last summer, but with the downturn, the bank cut back.
"I went to a firm that previously had a 100 percent placement rate -- meaning if you went through that process of five months of flirting with the firm, you would finally get the offer for the summer," Vertun said. "Previously, Columbia had a 100 percent offer rate, but by the time I finished, it was 50 percent."
With jobs scarce, some graduates have been forced to choose alternative career paths.
Jennifer Wright, one of Vertun's classmates at Columbia, who had been on an investment banker track, decided to launch her own company when the market collapsed last fall. Her business partner's bold invention: a bio-degradable pizza box that breaks into serving plates.
"The idea of following an entrepreneurial venture was scary," Wright said.
But her courage paid off. The bio-degradable pizza box idea went viral after a Twitter exchange with actor Ashton Kutcher.
Wright posted a video on YouTube that showcased the product and half-a-million hits later, she received hundreds of queries from around the world, signed a contract with a major distributor and has plans to meet with a national pizza chain.
Thomas Campbell, another Columbia Business School graduate, decided to use the business model to enact social change. Campbell said he feels that New York City's Harlem neighborhood needs him more than Wall Street..
"I'm doing two businesses by empowering distressed communities through real estate," he told ABC News. "One way we do that is by building physical properties and the other way we do that is through disseminating in terms of financial literacy to these distressed communities."
Soon, he said, he will have helped bring 86 units of affordable housing to a low-income neighborhood.
"This is my passion," he said. "This is what I need to do with my life."
While many in finance have found success in other fields, bittersweet optimism pervades among those interviewed by ABC News.
Before the financial downfall, 28-year-old Tim Sykes ran his own hedge fund.
"My parents gave me control of my bar mitzvah money, which was $12,415," he said. "By the time I had graduated, I had turned that $12K into $123K. By the end of my freshman year in college, it was over one million. So I was hooked into trading stocks."