Class of 2016: First Year Employment Outcomes

By Lisa Maletsky & Mary T Calhoon
Office of Student Persistence Research
Nevada Career Studio

Where do University of Nevada, Reno students end up when they graduate? It’s the question on the mind of any college senior who walks into the Career Studio. Increasingly, it also is the question of prospective students and their families, university alumni, state legislators, and employers. Data about graduates’ career outcomes when they first leave UNR is an important demonstration that a degree from UNR offers a great return on investment.

In 2015 the Nevada Career Studio began conducting a survey of all graduating students to find out more about where they land in the first year after graduating from UNR. The survey was constructed and delivered based on national protocols defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE). Three cycles of the survey opened a month before each graduation and remained open for one year after graduation. Students had the ability to respond or update prior responses at any point while the survey was open. Results for the Class of 2016 (including students who graduated in August 2015, December 2015, and May 2016) were published in June of this year.

The survey data was able to account for the career outcomes of 55% (2,022 out of 3,704) of total graduates, after allowing for administrative follow-up to supplement direct survey responses (for example, recording students’ updates to LinkedIn profiles). Therefore, the findings provided an excellent snapshot of immediate post-graduation outcomes.

Encouragingly, findings indicated that the majority of participants (74%) were working full- or part-time after graduation. Business (including Finance, Consulting, and Retail), Healthcare, and Education (including Research) were the top three industries of employment. Approximately 14% indicated that they were accepted to a program and continuing their education. Including military service and service-year programs, the vast majority of 2016 UNR graduates (89%) reported a positive career outcome (1). The rate of positive career outcomes for UNR graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees was slightly higher than the national rate reported by NACE. The rate for doctoral students was exactly on par with the national rate. Not only was UNR’s positive career outcomes rate higher than the national rate for bachelor’s and master’s degree graduates, but it also was higher than the rates of similar institutions (i.e., large institutions, public institutions, research universities, and Far West institutions) (2).

Responses about salary, job satisfaction, and relevance to career goals gave us a clearer picture of outcomes for graduates employed full-time. The mean salary for full-time employment was $51,143. Unsurprisingly, average salary increased as the degree level of the graduate increased. We looked at median salary data for bachelor’s degree students as a basis for comparison to the national data. We found that the median salary of $40,000 for UNR undergraduates was lower than the median reported by NACE ($47,692), but higher than the median reported by GradLeaders ($35,000) (3). The discrepancy between salary findings from NACE and GradLeaders is influenced by differences in survey design and methodology. NACE allows participating schools to use a variety of survey methods as long as they adhere to the protocols, leading to greater differences in data collection across schools. GradLeaders standardize data collection across all schools using their platform. As UNR uses the GradLeaders platform to administer the survey, UNR data is directly comparable to national GradLeaders data. Thus, starting salaries for UNR 2016 bachelor’s degree graduates were higher than the national average when compared with salary data collected with similar methods (4). Additionally, the majority of full-time employed participants (86%) rated their current employment as satisfying. The same number of participants reported that their employment was related to their career goals.

Finally, we looked at whether UNR graduates chose to work or enroll in school in the state of Nevada. Most students (73%) did stay in Nevada for work after graduation. Approximately 86% of those working in Nevada remained in the greater Reno area, indicating that the region is retaining its talent. More than half (57%) of undergraduates who enrolled in continued education stayed in Nevada, with 82% of these continuing at UNR rather than another school in the state.

Overall, results from the 2016 Outcomes Survey highlight the success of UNR students beyond graduation as well as the ability for the greater Reno area to attract and retain talent. With future implementation of the Outcome Survey, the Career Studio will be able to track and assess trends in UNR graduates’ career outcomes. This long-term tracking will provide the university with valuable evidence that time spent at UNR translates into an immediate and positive return on investment.

(1) Positive Career Outcomes include employment, continuing education, military service and service-year programs.
(2) Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers (2016). First Destinations for the College Class of 2015.
(3) Source: GradLeaders Research (2016). The Outcomes Survey Class of 2014-2015 National Report as of Twelve Months Post-Graduation.
(4) NACE and GradLeaders results referenced here are based on the Class of 2015. 
NACE Reporting looks at first destination outcomes 6 months after graduation, whereas this report looks at outcomes one year after graduation. 
GradLeaders Reporting also looks at outcomes one year after graduation.