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  • What Do New College Grads Want Most in a Job?

    BETHLEHEM, PA—When considering jobs, what factors do college students find most important? For Class of 2017 graduates who planned to enter the work force immediately after graduation, the opportunity to develop their skills tops the list, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    NACE’s Class of 2017 Student Survey Report asked members of the Class of 2017 to determine which among 18 aspects of a job or employer are most important. These students indicated that the opportunity to develop job-specific skills and the opportunity to develop applied skills—which are broader—are most important. (See Figure 1.)

    Students essentially found these aspects to be equally important, with 84 percent giving top ranking to the opportunity to develop job-specific skills and 83 percent noting the importance of having the opportunity to develop applied skills. 

    Job security (82 percent), friendly co-workers (81 percent), and a good benefits package (74 percent) were also highly important to responding seniors.

    These results are consistent with observations throughout the post-recession years, when the most highly preferred aspects of a job or employer provided the opportunity for growth. Pre-recession results, however, were different. For the classes of 2007 and 2008, for example, a high starting salary and the opportunity for rapid advancement were highly coveted, while the opportunity for development was a fairly middling preference.

    That said, when Class of 2017 seniors were asked how they would choose between two otherwise equal job offers, salary was the leading factor, cited by nearly 14 percent of respondents. 

    Figure 1: What students look for in a job

    Aspects of a Job or Employer Percentage
    Opportunity to develop job-specific skills 84.0%
    Opportunity to develop applied skills 82.6%
    Job security 82.2%
    Friendly co-workers 81.2%
    Good benefits package 74.3%
    Recognition for good performance 72.2%
    Clearly defined assignments 69.6%
    Opportunity to improve the community 68.5%
    Clear agenda of corporate social responsibility 64.6%
    Diversity-conscious employer 64.1%
    Opportunity for creative expression 59.2%
    Opportunity for rapid advancement 56.0%
    Located in a diverse/inclusive community 54.4%
    High starting salary 53.7%
    Sustainable operations/products 49.7%
    Casual atmosphere 46.9%
    Located close to home 44.2%
    “Brand name” company 41.1%
    Source: Class of 2017 Student Survey Report, National Association of Colleges and Employers. The percentages represent students who planned to enter the work force immediately after graduation and who indicated that the respective employee job/employer aspect was either “very” (4) or “extremely” (5) important on a 5-point scale.

    About the Class of 2017 Student Survey: NACE’s Class of 2017 Student Survey was conducted from February 15 to April 30, 2017. Nearly 22,000 students across all degree and year levels at colleges and universities nationwide took part; the focus of the report and this release are the 4,213 bachelor’s degree students who indicated that they would be graduating—or already had graduated—during the 2016-17 academic school year (July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017), and were thus members of the Class of 2017. An executive summary of the Class of 2017 Student Survey Report is available at www.naceweb.org/store/2017/the-class-of-2017-student-survey-report/.  

    About NACE: Since 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has been the leading source of information about the employment of college graduates. For more information, visit www.naceweb.org. NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media at http://www.naceweb.org/about-us/press/.