Community college students want more clarity on their career paths

42% of community college students said they weren't sufficiently informed about in-demand jobs in their local areas. Around 1 in 5 students said their coursework provided them with little to no information about the skills they would need.

A large majority of community college students have a career in mind, but they also say that they don’t have enough information about the paths that will get them to those jobs.

Some 90% of 83,000-plus students who responded to the 2023 Community College Survey of Student Engagement said they had zeroed in on a career path. “But many of those respondents were missing vital information about what that path would entail,” say the authors of the “How Clear Is Their Path?” report from The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education. Community college leaders should be aware of three key findings from the survey:

  1. Around 1 in 5 students (18%) said their coursework provided them with little to no information about the skills they would need in a chosen career.
  2. 42% of students said they weren’t sufficiently informed about in-demand jobs in their local areas.
  3. Over half of respondents (58%) relied most on advisors or counselors for career guidance; 29% depended on friends or family; and 13% sought advice from their current employer.

The good news is that the report also sheds light on how community colleges can better prepare students to succeed in the workforce. Not surprisingly, students who used career counseling services frequently and those who participated in an internship, field experience or clinical assignment felt better informed about in-demand jobs in their regions, the survey found.

President moves: Administrators prove popular picks as next leader on the job 

Career counseling and internships also gave students a better understanding of their earnings potential in various fields of employment. And students taking 30 or more credit hours reported feeling better informed about the skills needed in their chosen careers. Overall, students were also more engaged in their coursework when they saw a clear career path ahead, the report found.

Finally, the report recommends some questions for community college presidents and senior leaders to investigate about their career planning efforts:

  • How does your college define and prioritize career exploration and guidance?
  • If your college is in the process of implementing guided pathways, how can you capitalize on the experience of students who are already working in the same field as their program area?
  • How do you collaborate with local industries and employers to ensure that your career pathways align with workforce needs?
  • How do you assess the effectiveness of your career pathways in terms of student outcomes, such as completion rates and employability?
  • How do you involve faculty and staff in the development and implementation of career pathways?
  • What steps are being taken to ensure that career guidance and preparation are integrated seamlessly into the student experience, from enrollment through graduation and beyond?

“For students to fully benefit from the economic mobility that a postsecondary certificate or degree can offer, they must not only complete their goals but also find success in the labor market,” said Linda García, executive director of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement. “Finding that success will help students climb the income ladder—and also will contribute to and benefit the national economy.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of University Business and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for University Business, he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

Most Popular