Only 53% of students believe their major will lead to a good job, survey finds

More students are pursuing higher education with career outcomes in mind, and many begin their college journey with the goal of landing a job by graduation.

But only half of students feel confident that they will get a good job after graduation, finds a new survey.

Researchers at Gallup and Strada Education Network surveyed more than 32,000 students from 42 randomly selected four-year institutions. Respondents were asked about their readiness to launch a career after graduation.

Here's how students felt about their career readiness, according to the survey:

  • About 36% of students they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the workplace;
  • Just 53% of students believe their major will lead to a good job; and
  • Only 28% of liberal arts majors are confident they will get a good job after graduation, compared to 62% of STEM majors.

Many students "aren't prepared for work—and they know it," says Brandon Busteed, an executive director of Gallup's Education & Workforce Development.

Learn more: Post-graduate outcomes—and 3 other student success metrics progressive schools are tracking

While the survey exposes students' lack of confidence in their career outcomes, the findings also identify two experiences that boost students' confidence.

1: Encourage career conversations between faculty and students

About 57% of students who said a professor or staff member initiated a conversation with them about jobs felt confident in their career outlook, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf writes for Inside Higher Ed.

Research has shown that close faculty-student relationships result in significantly greater levels of happiness and engagement later in students’ careers, writes Colin Koproske for EAB's Academic Affairs Forum.  

Unfortunately, too few college graduates report having those relationships. The power of those relationships may be beyond question, but colleges and universities still struggle to ensure that all students feel engaged, supported, and connected with faculty throughout their careers, Koproske writes.

Institutions should invest in empowering faculty members to discuss careers with students, Busteed recommends.

2: Invest in career services

Minority student populations rely on career centers for guidance more than their white counterparts, says Carol D'Amico, the executive vice president of mission advancement and philanthropy at Strada.

Black, Hispanic, first-generation, and students over the age of 24 were more likely to take advantage of their institution's career services and more likely to rate the guidance they received as very helpful, Bauer-Wolf writes.

The importance of a robust career center is not lost on higher ed leaders. About 83% of provosts plan to focus on career prep this academic year. Many college career centers are already experimenting with new ways to get students in the door and prepare them for post-college life.

At Emerson College, for example, the career services staff now emphasizes experiential learning as the critical element of career preparation. The center created a Career Readiness Plan, which gives students a checklist of activities to do during that year. For a first-year student, the plan recommends meeting with a career counselor and conducting an information interview, among other steps (Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, 1/19; Cision PR Newswire release, 1/19). 


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