College Students Continue to Believe Their Major Determines Job Prospects Despite Increasing Employe

11/20/2019
Handshake

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- A survey of 1,000 college students and hiring data from employers using Handshake Premium, who have the ability to proactively engage job candidates by targeting different qualifications and attributes, reveals new insights about the early talent landscape. While 81.5% of students place outsized importance on major selection, believing it is a key determinant of their future job prospects, over the past year, only 50% of Premium employers on the Handshake platform specified a major requirement for job listings.

The Handshake study also found that the majority of students (61.2%) feel pressured to choose a major that they believe will result in a high-paying job, and that 62.9% of students would take the first job they were offered because they need the money.

"The overemphasis on the relationship between major and career prospects is outdated and needs to be reevaluated," said Christine Cruzvergara, Vice President of Higher Education and Student Success at Handshake. "To succeed in finding meaningful and satisfying careers post-graduation, students should shift to developing a new mindset. They should focus on developing skills including the ability to synthesize information, think critically, and communicate well, which will serve them both in college and beyond."

 
                          
 

The data reveals differing motivators between sections of student populations surveyed, including by gender and major.

College Majors Continue to Reflect Gender Imbalance
Gender-based differences continue to reveal themselves through the majors students pursue and what they think about their future job prospects.

  • Men still dominate engineering, with nearly four times more men than women majoring in this field (20.3% vs. 5.8%). Conversely, more than twice as many women are majoring in social sciences (17% versus 8%).
  • Men also feel more pressure to earn, and were 52.5% more likely than women to be influenced by earning potential and future opportunity when choosing a major. Women were 27.3% more likely to be influenced by academic passion than men.
  • What's more, women feel less secure when it comes to employment; they were more concerned about a recession impacting their job prospects, more likely to try to 'get a job quickly' than men, and consistently estimated themselves at lower pay grades both immediately out of college and 5 years after graduation.

Students Motivations and Expectations Differ Between Different Major Groups
Data reveals that groups of students pursuing different majors in business, fine arts, humanities, engineering, sciences, and social sciences have widely varying motivations and expectations.

  • Students pursuing humanities degrees are the only group in which the majority of respondents (58.5%) said that they did not feel pressured to choose a major that would result in a high-paying job, and that they would not take a job they weren't passionate about due to financial pressures.
  • Further, humanities students are the only group in which a majority list "satisfying work" as the primary driver when looking for and choosing a job (every other group chose "pay").
  • Student perceptions of the most effective channels for finding jobs or internships varied as well. Those studying the sciences reported that college career services were most effective, while business and social sciences majors chose job sites. Fine arts, humanities and engineering named friend connections.
  • When asked to rank the most valuable factors needed to find a job, students from all major groups except engineering ranked "prior internship/job experience" as number one. Engineering students ranked "relevant skills" as the most important factor.
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