Workforcedev2020 A Virtual Experience for Workforce Professionals  >  Learn More!

New Survey Reveals Crisis of Confidence in Workforce Readiness Among College Students

Representing the views of more than 32,000 students at 43 randomly-selected four-year institutions, a new survey released by Gallup and Strada Education NetworkSM  reveals a crisis of confidence among most students regarding their readiness to launch careers:

  • Only a third of students believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the job market (34%) and in the workplace (36%).
  • Just half (53%) believe their major will lead to a good job.

“Higher education’s promise of social mobility hinges on students graduating with confidence, purpose and the skills needed to land their first job,” said William D. Hansen, President and CEO of Strada Education Network and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. “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.”

The findings also point to solutions, revealing that students who have these three career-focused experiences at their institution are significantly more confident about their preparation for the workforce:

  1. Speak often with faculty or staff about their career options;
  2. Have at least one university official initiate a conversation with them about their career options; and,
  3. Believe their school is committed to helping their students find a rewarding career.

Additional survey insights include:

  • Student confidence differs across majors. Students pursuing science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degrees report the most confidence about their job prospects with 62% strongly agreeing 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 like 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 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.”

To view complete findings, download the full report at