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Graduate Employment Survey

By Marc Hendel, Senior Researcher and Data Analysis Manager

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In March 2013, Accenture, an international management consulting firm, surveyed 1,010 students graduating from college and entering the job market in 2013 and 1,005 who graduated college in 2011 or 2012. All participants had earned either a bachelor's degree or an associate degree. Four-year and two-year colleges were both well represented in the group of respondents. The purpose of the survey was to understand how recent graduates felt about their transition from the college campus to the work world.

Underemployed and Undertrained

Many of the findings in this survey echo sentiments from other reports reviewed in this issue of "Research in Depth." For example, 41% of the 2011 and 2012 graduates reported that they were in a job that did not require a college degree. On a related note, 63% indicated that they would need additional training beyond what they had gained from earning their degree to get the type of job they wanted. In fact, those about to graduate expect their first employer to provide them with extra training once they are hired (77% had this expectation). This expectation does not match reality, as only 48% of those who had graduated and were employed reported that their first employer provided them with additional training.

Only 16% of those about to graduate in May 2013 had secured a job at the time of the survey. The perception of those about to graduate is that the job market is very tight — so much so that 34% indicated they would accept the first offer they receive while 27% reported that they would consider working in a field other than their major field of study.

The employment situation for the 2011 and 2012 graduates appears to be more positive than that facing the class of 2013. Although the majority indicated that it was difficult to find a job, 81% of these respondents had a job within six months of graduation. Of the 2011 and 2012 graduates who were still unemployed at the time of the survey, 48% stated that they would have had better luck on the job front if they had chosen a different major.

Working in Major Field

Another example of too-high expectations is seen in the fact that 64% of 2013 graduates expect to work in a job related to their major field of study, while only 53% of 2011 and 2012 graduates are doing so. Of the 2011 and 2012 graduates not working in their field of study, 45% said it was taking too long to find a job and 32% said there were not enough job openings in their field.


Many college students are told of the importance of doing an internship while in college. Seventy-two percent (72%) of the 2011 and 2012 graduates noted that they had participated in an internship while in school, but only 42% of that group indicated that the internship led to a job. Although it is nice when an internship leads to a job, doing one has other benefits, including gaining an understanding of exactly what people in the student's chosen field do on a day-to-day basis and networking with people in that field.

Financial Expectations

As seen in other recent studies, students' financial expectations are out of line with the reality they will face after graduation. For example, only 15% of the 2013 graduates expected to earn a salary of less than $25,000 per year, while 32% of the 2011 and 2012 graduates were earning less than $25,000 per year. Although 38% of respondents indicated that they had no student loan debt upon graduation, approximately one-third of the respondents (30%) had total student loan debt of more than $30,000. To their credit, 64% of respondents indicated that they planned to pay off their student loan debt on their own with no help from their parents; however, 32% of 2013 graduates plan to live at home with their parents after graduation and 44% of 2011 and 2012 report doing so at the time of the survey.


The authors give three recommendations to employers based on the survey results:

  • Hire based on potential.
  • Make training part of the total employment package.
  • Work closely with educational institutions.

Read findings from the survey.

Date: July 2013