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  • College Class of 2021 Makes Gains in Jobs, but Doesn’t Recoup Ground Lost to Pandemic


    BETHLEHEM, PA—New college graduates from the Class of 2021 outpaced their 2020 counterparts when it came to getting a job, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    NACE’s report—First Destinations for the College Class of 2021—found that 55.3% percent of the graduating class was employed full time within six months of graduation. In comparison, 53.6% percent of 2020 graduates could make the same claim. (See Figure 1.)

    “The Class of 2021 graduated after the worst of the pandemic had subsided,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE executive director. “Employers had largely figured out remote and partially remote work arrangements, vaccinations were available, and the world had started to open back up, meaning there was demand again, all of which benefitted 2021 college graduates entering the world of work.”

    However, 2021 graduates did not do as well in their first six months as recent pre-pandemic classes did.

    According to VanDerziel, “Nearly 60% of the Class of 2019 was employed full time within the same time frame, and the Class of 2018 fared almost as well—nearly 59% were employed full time at the six-month mark.”

    Regardless, says VanDerziel, “The increase in full-time employment by the Class of 2021 is positive news. We also saw nearly 22% of the class secure a place in graduate and professional school. Overall, less than 16% of the class was still looking for a job or acceptance to grad school, down from 17.5% of the Class of 2020.”

    Figure 1

    About the First-Destination Survey: The survey that resulted in First Destinations for the College Class of 2021 is the eighth in a series that began with the college Class of 2014. Each year, the survey is conducted through individual colleges and universities nationwide, which then report their results to NACE.

    The class year for 2021 graduates is defined as July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. The schools conducted the Class of 2021 survey from graduation through December 30, 2021, and reported their data to NACE from January through April 30, 2021. All data in the report are as of December 30, 2021.

    In total, NACE received reports from 290 schools; they reported outcomes for graduating classes totaling more than 686,000 students in four degree programs—associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral-level programs. Data presented in this release are for bachelor’s degree graduates. To our knowledge, this represents the most comprehensive view of graduate outcomes currently available for the Class of 2021.

    First Destinations for the College Class of 2021, featuring an executive summary of findings and interactive dashboard, is available free through the NACE website. In addition, results for previous classes can be accessed on the NACE website.

    NOTE: NACE recently released hiring projections for the Class of 2023 and will update the outlook for 2023 graduates in the spring. Final data regarding outcomes for the Class of 2022 will be available fall 2023.

    About NACE: Established in 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is the only professional association in the United States that connects more than 9,800 college career services professionals, more than 3,300 university relations and recruiting professionals, and more than 300 business solution providers that serve this community.

    NACE is the premier source of market research on career readiness and employment of recent college graduates. NACE forecasts hiring and trends in the job market; tracks salaries, recruiting and hiring practices, and student attitudes and outcomes; and identifies best practices and benchmarks.

    NACE offers its members unparalleled research, networking and professional development opportunities, guidance on standards and ethics, and advocacy on key issues. For more information, visit NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media.