Joining the military is certainly an honorable choice and presents an alternative to pounding the pavement. In today’s job market, more college grads than ever are signing up to serve their country.

The weak economy is helping to drive thousands more college graduates into the U.S. military.

Since the recession began in 2007, there’s been a steady increase in the number of college graduates joining the armed forces. The Navy and Army have seen the biggest jumps. About 60 percent more college grads joined the Navy last year than in 2007.

For some of them, it’s a job some would never have imagined for themselves just a few years ago.

Not ‘What I Thought I’d Be Doing’

Louis Lam fits that bill. He’s your typical good college student. He’s on the dean’s list at the University of Maryland, where he studies electrical engineering. He’s active in campus organizations. To save money, he lives at home. He even helps his mom make dinner.

“Generally I would just get the dishes and stuff ready,” Lam says as his mother drips sauce onto meat sizzling in a skillet.

OK, maybe he’s not helping with the actual cooking. Mom jokes there’s a reason for that.

“He’s not very good,” Mydung Lam laughs. But Lam is a great son, she says.

And that son’s plans have changed drastically since he got to college.

“What I thought that I’d be doing, going into college as an electrical engineer,” Lam says, “I thought that I’d be working with gadgets, making robotic things, [tinkering with] groundbreaking technology.”

The idea of joining the military had never even crossed his mind, Lam says. But that was before both his parents lost their jobs. Unemployment benefits held them over for a while, but they ran out in April.

“I was like, I really need to get this job as soon as possible,” Lam says. “Otherwise, we might lose the house. We might have to sell some stuff.”

He saw his college friends struggling to find jobs or internships and says his family couldn’t afford for him to go through that.

Instead, he turned to the military. As the U.S. has struggled to recover from the worst recession since World War II, tens of thousands of other college students and graduates have made a similar choice.