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  • Career Services Offices: Office Structure and Organizational Division

    April 06, 2016 | By NACE Staff

    Organizational Structure
    A career services building on a college campus.

    TAGS: organizational structure, surveys, benchmarks, spotlight

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    Is the typical career services operation centralized or decentralized? And in which division is career services most commonly housed? Overall, the majority of career services operations have been and continue to be centralized, and are most frequently housed in student affairs and academic affairs, according to NACE’s 2015-16 Career Services Benchmark Survey.

    In terms of structure, the result is not surprising given the advantages a centralized operation can provide, including “one-stop shopping” for employers, and a consolidated staff and budget, leading, ideally, to optimal integration of services and less duplication of efforts.

    That said, there does appear to be some movement over the past decade toward decentralization, which has its benefits as well. (See Figure 1.) Benefits of a decentralized structure include the ability to provide employers with a customized recruiting experience that focuses on specific types of candidates in particular academic programs within a single college, and the ability to focus efforts and resources on specific types of students and employers.

    Consequently, decentralized operations are most common among the two largest groups of institutions—those deemed Research 1 (R1) and Research 2 (R2) by Carnegie Classification—where the advantages of providing more narrowly targeted services may outweigh the economies of scale provided by a centralized operation. (See Figure 2.)

    While career services operations are most frequently housed in student affairs and academic affairs, reporting lines have become more diverse, and there has been a gradual transition to other divisions. (See Figure 3.) This movement may reflect an attempt on the part of institutions to better align career services with academics, enrollments, and other key areas.

    Note that career services operations at R1 institutions are the most likely to report to an individual school, reflecting their greater likelihood to have a decentralized structure. (See Figure 4.)

    Data for NACE’s 2015-16 Career Services Benchmark Survey Report for Colleges and Universities were collected from September 14, 2015, to December 23, 2015, from NACE member institutions; there were 842 respondents, representing 42.9 percent of all eligible respondents. Highlights from the survey are available on NACEWeb. Participating career centers receive a complimentary copy of the survey results (see MyNACE > Research Reports).

    Figure 1: Office Structure, 2006-15

    Source: 2015-16 Career Services Benchmark Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers

    Figure 2: Office Structure, by Carnegie Classification

    Office Structure Doctoral Master’s Baccalaureate Assoc.
    R1 R2 R3 M1 M2 M3 A&S Diverse
    % of respondents
    Primarily Centralized 40.9% 79.7% 93.3% 92.5% 98.5% 96.9% 97.0% 94.6% 89.9%
    Primarily Decentralized 59.1% 29.3% 6.7% 7.5% 1.5% 3.1% 3.0% 5.4% 10.1%
    Source: 2015-16 Career Services Benchmark Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers

    Figure 3: Organizational Division, 2006-15

    Organizational Division 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
    % of respondents
    Student Affairs 68.3% 63.1% 63.6% 59.4% 57.4% 59.0% 55.1% 54.6%
    Academic Affairs 19.6% 21.5% 24.0% 22.4% 21.7% 18.9% 20.2% 22.5%
    Other 7.5% 10.8% 3.4% 12.4% 9.8% 9.1% 11.0% 10.2%
    School(s) Within University - - - - 5.4% 6.5% 6.9% 5.6%
    Enrollment Management 2.8% 3.1% 6.0% 3.7% 3.0% 3.7% 4.1% 3.9%
    Institutional Development 1.8% 1.5% 3.0% 2.1% 2.5% 2.9% 2.7% 3.3%
    Source: 2015-16 Career Services Benchmark Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers

    Figure 4: Organizational Division, by Carnegie Classification

    Organizational Division Doctoral Master’s Baccalaureate Assoc.
    R1 R2 R3 M1 M2 M3 A&S Diverse
    % of respondents
    Student Affairs 44.4% 55.1% 50.0% 62.4% 58.2% 54.8% 46.9% 43.6% 62.9%
    Academic Affairs 21.8% 24.6% 25.0% 22.5% 22.4% 19.4% 35.7% 30.9% 5.6%
    Other 2.4% 8.7% 15.9% 6.4% 6.0% 16.1% 6.1% 16.4% 23.6%
    School(s) Within University 27.4% 5.8% 4.5% 1.7% 1.5% 0.0% 0.0% 1.8% 0.0%
    Enrollment Management 2.4% 2.9% 4.5% 2.9% 6.0% 3.2% 5.1% 1.8% 7.9%
    Institutional Development 1.6% 2.9% 0.0% 4.0% 6.0% 6.5% 6.1% 5.5% 0.0%
    Source: 2015-16 Career Services Benchmark Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers