Career Services Grows in Importance to College Students, Survey Finds

While 52 percent of U.S. college graduates report visiting the career services office at least once during their undergraduate experience, they are equally likely to say their experience was "not at all helpful" (16%) as they are to say it was "very helpful" (16%), according to a new national survey of college graduates.  Overall, just under eight in 10 graduates who visited a career services offices describe the experience as “very helpful,” "helpful" or "somewhat helpful." The findings are outlined in the Gallup-Purdue Index Report 2016, released last month, based on more than 11,000 interviews with U.S. adults aged 18 and older with at least a bachelor's degree, conducted Aug. 22-Oct. 11, 2016. The study was conducted as part of the third year of the Gallup-Purdue Index -- a nationally representative survey that has interviewed 70,000 different college graduates over three years.

The survey found that graduates who recall having a high-quality experience with their career services office are markedly more likely to rate their college experience positively. For example, graduates who rated their experiences with career services as very helpful are 5.8 times more likely to strongly agree that their university prepared them for post-collegiate life, nearly three times more likely to "strongly agree" that their education was worth, and 3.4 times more likely to recommend their alma mater.

The campus Career Services office has grown increasingly important to students.  The survey found that recent college graduates are more likely than those who graduated earlier to report visiting their school's career services office. Sixty-one percent of graduates who received their degree since 2009 say they visited the career services office at least once during their undergraduate experience, while 32 percent report they did not (7 percent were unsure).

The results could stem from substantial changes in college students' interactions with career services over time and the fact that colleges' career services' offerings have evolved dramatically in past decades. It is also possible that a larger percentage of earlier graduates may be unable to recall their experience with the career services office, Gallup points out.

Gallup notes that Americans with a bachelor's degree can expect to earn about $1 million more than those with a high school diploma over the course of their careers. However, the unemployment rate for college graduates in the U.S. aged 25 and older is now nearly double what it was in 2000, compared with an overall employment rate that is only one percentage point higher in 2016 than it was in 2000.

As a result, the Gallup organization observes, “schools must adopt new programs and policies to better prepare their graduates for a changing and competitive job market.”  Career services are apparently an increasingly important part of that changing landscape.

Career services offices often provide this support, which can include stimulating student interest in disciplines they had previously not considered, helping students select a major field of study, helping students secure employment while enrolled in college, and preparing students for finding a job upon graduation through mock interviews and resume workshops.