College Students Express Increased Concern Over Career Preparedness, Study Shows

A mere 40 percent of college seniors report feeling that their college experience has been very helpful in preparing them for a career, according to results from McGraw-Hill Education’s third annual Workforce Readiness Survey.

While the overall perceived importance of preparing for careers while in college is on the rise — 71 percent of students now say it’s “extremely important,” compared to 66 percent in 2014 — some students still report lower levels of career preparedness than their peers; survey results reveal that 18 percent of students majoring in the arts and humanities feel “not at all prepared” for their careers, as opposed to 6 percent of all other students.

Women reported similar feelings; they were less likely than men (19 percent compared to 24 percent) to report feeling “very prepared” for their careers. Yet women were more likely than men to express feeling “satisfied” with their overall college experience (82 percent compared to 74 percent).

However, results also revealed that arts and humanities majors are 10 times more likely to value doing what they love versus being paid well, while women are more likely to pursue careers that benefit society over those that are lucrative.

Students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields reported the highest levels of optimism about their career prospects.

Overall, results from the survey reveal a 14 percent increase between 2014 and 2016 in students’ satisfaction with their overall college experience, with 79 percent now feeling satisfied. However, many students said they would prefer that their colleges offer expanded opportunities such as more internships and professional experiences (67 percent), more time to focus on career preparation (59 percent), better access to career preparation tools (47 percent), and more alumni networking opportunities (34 percent).

“Despite the increasing cost of attending college, it continues to be a great investment for young people to make in their futures if they graduate,” Peter Cohen, McGraw-Hill Education’s group president of U.S. education, said in a press release. “… While no two students’ career aspirations are the same, every college graduate deserves to enter the workforce with the confidence that their degree was worth the investment.”

The report’s overall findings reveal that college students are becoming more concerned with career outcomes, with 61 percent reporting that they pursued a major that would help them secure a job after graduation — up from 48 percent in 2014.