New Survey Reveals Crisis of Confidence in Workforce Readiness Among College Students

Strada-Gallup survey finds majority of students don’t believe they will graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the job market, but career-focused institutional engagement can have major impact.

INDIANAPOLIS – Gallup and Strada Education NetworkSM today released findings from the 2017 College Student Survey, a new nationally representative survey of current students examining their perceptions about preparation for the workforce and the career-related support they receive from their institutions.

Representing the views of more than 32,000 students at 43 randomly selected four-year institutions, the survey reveals a crisis of confidence among most students regarding their readiness to launch careers:

  • Only a third of students believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the job market (34%) and in the workplace (36%).
  • Just half (53%) believe their major will lead to a good job.

“Higher education’s promise of social mobility hinges on students graduating with confidence, purpose and the skills needed to land their first job,” said William D. Hansen, President and CEO of Strada Education Network and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. “Students are telling us they feel underprepared to enter the workforce while employers bemoan the skills of recent graduates. That signals demand for new career advising and work-relevant learning models that support more successful transitions from education to employment.”

Importantly, the findings also point to solutions, revealing that students who have these three career-focused experiences at their institution are significantly more confident about their preparation for the workforce:

  1. Speak often with faculty or staff about their career options;
  2. Have at least one university official initiate a conversation with them about their career options; and,
  3. Believe their school is committed to helping their students find a rewarding career.

Additional survey insights include:

  • Student confidence differs across majors. Students pursuing science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) degrees report the most confidence about their job prospects with 62% strongly agreeing their major will lead to a good job, compared with 40% of liberal arts majors, 51% of business majors and 58% of those in public service majors like education, social work and criminal justice.
  • Nearly four in 10 students have never used their school’s career services resources. Overall, 39% of students have never visited their school’s career services office or used its online resources, including more than one-third of seniors.
  • Career services and advisors are helpful for minority, first-generation and older students. Black, Hispanic, first-generation and older students are all far more likely to rate the guidance they received from their career services office and academic advisors as very helpful.

“Students aren’t prepared for work – and they know it,” said Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Education & Workforce Development at Gallup. “The fact that 88% of freshmen say, ‘getting a good job’ is the reason they go to college, yet only a third strongly agree they are getting the skills and knowledge they need to succeed is a mandate to improve how institutions approach everything from their academic curriculum to advising.”

The Strada-Gallup College Student Survey is the latest addition to a growing portfolio of Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Insights, the nation’s largest data set of consumer perspectives on pathways from education to employment. Since June 2016, Gallup has interviewed nearly 250,000 U.S. adults from more than 3,000 postsecondary institutions about their education experiences, decisions and outcomes.

Through the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey (a daily poll of 350 U.S. adults on their education experiences) together with focused surveys of alumni (Gallup-Purdue Index) and now current students, we are gaining actionable insights from consumers across all education attainment levels, socioeconomic backgrounds, races/ethnicities, ages and more.

To view complete findings, download the full report at


Gallup delivers analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems. Combining more than 80 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup knows more about the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers, students, and citizens than any other organization in the world.