Check out this long thoughtful piece on Huffington Post about why the best and brightest students from America's top school go to Wall Street for work. America's 'Brain Drain': Best And Brightest College Grads Head For Wall Street by Amanda Terkel. This has been going on for a long time and will continue for a long time to come I'm afraid.
A couple of reactions. The concept of a brain drain is sad, think of all the fields these people are not going into that would do so much more for society, education, public policy, non-profits, medical research, etc. It does however make perfect sense when you look at the math. Who would chose to work as a teacher making $35,000 if you were also offered a Wall Street job starting at 4 to 10 times that with huge room for increases. I got a taste of this when I was in Public Policy grad school and took a few classes in the Business School with the MBAs.
I hope that one positive outcome of this Occupy Wall Street thing is that some good people who care about the world and people may think twice about taking this path. Maybe they don't want to go home for Thanksgiving and admit hey just landed a job at Goldman Sachs. Also, if people do go into it, they will do so with some more thought about whether their actions may result in unintended consequences. More Ivy League Wall Street folks with a conscience. These guys are smart, they hopefully will study why the economy tanked and think when they are working on some new complicated financial instrument, will this lead to the collapse of the global economy.
Another part of this is, why are these firms able to make so much money that they can pay employees so much? There is something wrong with our economic system and the type of "business" they do that results in such huge revenues for these firms. What is the purpose of these Wall Street Banks and hedge funds?
Give the article a read.