College students fear flubbing real-world careers

January 24, 2018

There is a crisis of confidence among American college-level students about whether their education will enable them to launch a career, based on polling results released on January 17 by Gallup and Strada Education Network.

In fact, the poll of more than 32,000 students at 43 randomly selected four-year institutions nationwide found that only one-third (34%) of students believe that they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the job market, as well as in the workplace (36%).

Just half (53%) think that the major they have chosen will lead to a good job.

Indeed, the 2017 College Student Survey found that most students don’t think that they have the real-world skills to climb any corporate ladder.

“Higher education’s promise of social mobility hinges on students graduating with confidence, purpose and the skills needed to land their first job,” stated Strada CEO William Hansen. “Students are telling us they feel underprepared to enter the workforce, while employers bemoan the skills of recent graduates. That signals demand for new career advising and work-relevant learning models that support more successful transitions from education to employment.”

Among the other key findings of the report are the following:

  • Student confidence differs across majors. Students pursuing science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degrees have developed the most confidence about their job prospects, with 62% strongly agreeing that their major will lead to a good job; compared with 40% of liberal arts majors, 51% of business majors, and 58% of those in public service majors such as education, social work and criminal justice.
  • Nearly four in 10 students have never used their school’s career services resources. Overall, 39% of students have never visited their school’s career services office or used their online resources, including more than one-third of seniors.
  • Career services and advisors are helpful for minority, first generation and older students. Black, Hispanic, first-generation and older students are all far more likely to rate the guidance they received from their career services office and academic advisors as very helpful.

“Students aren’t prepared for work— and they know it,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director, Education & Workforce Development at Gallup. “The fact that 88% of freshman say, ‘getting a good job’ is the reason [why] they go to college, yet only a third strongly agree they are getting the skills and knowledge they need to succeed is a mandate to improve how institutions approach everything from their academic curriculum to advising.”

The Strada-Gallup College Student Survey is the latest addition to a growing portfolio of Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Insights. Since June 2016, Gallup has interviewed nearly 250,000 U.S. adults from more than 3,000 postsecondary institutions about their education experiences, decisions and outcomes.


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