April 06, 2016 | By NACE Staff
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
Figure 2: Office Structure, by Carnegie Classification
Figure 3: Organizational Division, 2006-15
Figure 4: Organizational Division, by Carnegie Classification
Percent of staff time spent student-facing
Median number of students per professional staff member
Median number of FTE professional staff
Median number of FTE overall staff
Percent of career centers reporting cuts to personnel budget
Percent of career centers reporting cuts to non-personnel budget
Percent of career centers using third-party provider to collect student outcomes
2020-21 Career Services Benchmark Survey Report