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Only 40 Percent of College Seniors Feel Their College Experience Has Been Very Helpful in Preparing for a Career

Men are more likely than women to feel “very prepared” for their careers; Arts & Humanities majors are three times as likely as other students to feel “not at all prepared” for careers, according to McGraw-Hill's 2016 Workforce Readiness Survey

Tags: Article, Career & Workforce, Higher Education, Study Survey

Community College students generally feel just as prepared for careers and satisfied with their higher education experiences as their peers at 4-year colleges

NEW YORK, N.Y. (June 1, 2016) – Only four in 10 college seniors, and a similar number of college students overall, feel their college experience has been very helpful in preparing for a career, according to the results of McGraw-Hill's third annual Workforce Readiness Survey, released today. Over the last two years, the perceived importance of preparing for careers while in college appears to be on the rise, yet certain college students – including humanities majors and women – continue to report lower career confidence than their peers.

2016 Student Workforce Readiness Survey from McGraw-Hill

"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," said Peter Cohen, McGraw-Hill's group president of U.S. education. “It should be our collective goal to maximize the experience – whether in community colleges, four-year colleges or graduate programs – so students can feel confident they’ll have a successful career after finishing their higher education journey. 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.”

Some of the differences in perceived career preparedness among specific groups included:

  • Men are more likely than women (24 percent compared to 19 percent) to report that they feel “very prepared” for their careers, even though women are more likely to report that they are “satisfied” with their college experience (82 percent compared to 74 percent).
  • Arts and Humanities majors are more than three times as likely as other students to report that they feel “not at all prepared” for their careers (18 percent of Arts and Humanities majors, compared to less than 6 percent of all other students).
  • Students in STEM majors are the most likely to report that they are optimistic about their career prospects (73 percent), while students in Arts & Humanities and in Social Science majors are the least likely (61 percent of each).

Despite the lower cost, retention, and graduation rates, students in community colleges are as likely to feel prepared for careers and be satisfied with their collegiate experience as students at four-year colleges.

The results of the survey also point to several areas in which students feel their colleges could have done more to help them prepare for their careers. While students report that they are increasingly satisfied with their overall college experience (79 percent in 2016, compared to 65 percent in 2014), an increasing percentage report that they would have preferred their schools to provide:

  • More internships and professional experiences (67 percent in 2016, compared to 59 percent in 2014).
  • More time to focus on career preparation (59 percent in 2016, compared to 47 percent in 2014).
  • Better access to career preparation tools (47 percent in 2016, compared to 38 percent in 2014).
  • More alumni networking opportunities (34 percent in 2016, compared to 22 percent in 2014).

Other highlights from McGraw-Hill's Workforce Readiness Survey

College students are more focused on preparing for their careers than they were just a few years ago:

  • 71 percent of college students now report that planning for a rewarding career while they are in college is “extremely important,” compared to 66 percent in 2014.
  • More than 61 percent report that they have pursued a major that will help them to secure a job after graduation, compared to just 48 percent in 2014.

In planning for their job search, students value their “soft skills,” but indicate that those skills could be developed further:

  • When asked to identify skills that make them attractive job seekers, students are more likely to cite their interpersonal skills (78 percent) than any other attribute, including grades/GPA (67 percent), a degree in a marketable field (67 percent) and internship experience (60 percent).
  • The majority say they haven’t learned how to network or search for a job (59 percent) or how to conduct themselves in a job interview (58 percent) during college.

A significant portion of students says they are unsure their major will help them get a job:

  • Two in five say they are happy with their major but are unsure that it will get them a job when they graduate, and 22 percent say choosing a more relevant major would make them feel more prepared for their professional career.
  • Only 41 percent report that skills in their major are in high demand, and only 20 percent say companies often recruit graduates of their major directly out of college.

College students are highly cost-conscious:

  • Cost was reported by 72 percent of students to be one of the biggest factors in determining where they attended college.
  • More women than men (75 percent vs. 64 percent) said cost was at least somewhat important in their choice of college to attend.
  • 62 percent of students reported that, if two years of community college were free, they would attend community college before enrolling in their current college or instead of their current college or university.

Some students see benefits of classroom technology that extend far beyond the classroom:

  • 85 percent of college students feel that having used technology in classes or to study has helped to make them a better job candidate, and 89 percent use study technologies at least occasionally. Business and Economics majors are most likely (65 percent) to frequently use study technologies, defined as any digital or online program or application that allows you to learn classroom concepts.

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted by Hanover Research ( among 1,360 U.S. college students during March and April 2016, using an online survey.

McGraw Hill
McGraw Hill is a leading global education company that partners with millions of educators, learners and professionals around the world. Recognizing their diverse needs, we build trusted content, flexible tools and powerful digital platforms to help them achieve success on their own terms. Through our commitment to equity, accessibility and inclusion, we foster a culture of belonging that respects and reflects the diversity of the communities, learners and educators we serve. McGraw Hill has over 30 offices across North America, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America, and makes its learning solutions for PreK-12, higher education, professionals and others available in more than 80 languages. Visit us at or find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

Hanover Research

Founded in 2003, Hanover Research is a global research and analytics firm that provides high quality, custom research through an annual, fixed-fee model for clients in the corporate, education, and healthcare sectors. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Hanover employs high-caliber market researchers, analysts, and account professionals to deliver a robust service infrastructure that is revolutionary in its combination of flexibility and affordability. To learn more about Hanover Research, visit

Tyler Reed
McGraw Hill
(914) 512-4853