Many colleges and degree programs boast high job placement ratings that all but guarantee a job upon graduation, but what do those percentages really mean? It’s probably not surprising that schools skew information in their favor. When you hear an exceptionally high statistic, ask some important questions to find out if things are as great as they sound.
How was surveying conducted?
First, you should be wondering how colleges arrive at the statistics they boast. What type of information is collected, how are students contacted (phone, email, in person) and when is information collected? What measures are taken to ensure full participation? Most importantly, who is responsible for the data collection and interpretation?
Who was surveyed?
As a graduate of an accounting program that touts very high job placement statistics, I was disappointed to find that I, along with several fellow graduates, was never contacted or surveyed about our employment situations. The school had done very little to help students find work, so I had to wonder about the validity of those statistics. Where do they get these numbers? Who exactly are they including in these statistics? Do they survey everyone (as one would assume) or pick and choose which students to contact?
What counts as placement?
There is a big difference between a three month temporary assignment and a full time permanent position. Upon hearing high placement rates, one might not question what type of jobs graduates land and assume they only count permanent jobs. Therefore, it’s important to find the break down of the types of jobs students were offered. Another consideration is industry of employment. Are graduates working in their chosen field or a different industry?
What were the most common employers and job titles?
Placement statistics are meaningless without detailed information, including job title and employer. This information can help future graduates understand the type of jobs they can obtain and where to apply. Salary information is also important. Schools should be transparent about how well the degree pays off for it’s graduates.
Don’t be persuaded to attend a program or choose a major based on job placement statistics provided by schools. Often these statistics don’t tell the whole story, and can mislead potential students. Go to the campus career center, ask questions and look for independent verification of these numbers. Remember that schools are just like any business wanting to sell a product or service : they can manipulate information to put themselves in the best light. It’s up to you to be diligent and make a smart choice.
For help on finding a job after graduation read This is Not Your Father’s Job Market: Job Seeking Strategies for Today’s New College Graduates or The Strategic College Graduate: 7 Steps to Getting the Job You Really Want.