Quintessential Careers conducts ongoing research into the job-search experience of new college graduates as they enter "The Real World." Go to the Real World Home Page.
Attention college administrators! Our survey showed a major disconnect between college coursework and the preparation needed for the real world. Does that mean colleges aren't doing a good job of preparing students -- or are some students failing to apply themselves? Are college educators existing in ivory towers and out of touch with the real world of work? Or are students just not working hard enough in school to see the value of their education? Or perhaps they simply chose the wrong major? We don't know the answers, but with some exceptions, few of our survey respondents felt their college coursework had prepared them for their first jobs.
"For the job I have, school didn't teach me. I am still looking for a job in the field I was taught in school."
"Coursework is more fun than real work!!"
"College is great times but not anywhere even close to the real world."
-- biology grad
"I think the coursework gave me a basis for understanding what I do; however, no class can completely prepare you for what you will encounter in the workplace."
"My coursework prepared me really well. The University of Dallas taught me how to write and think. You can figure the rest of the real world out on your own."
-- Anne Johnson, economics grad
"The coursework is all just water under the bridge. You have to take the courses to get the piece of paper, which then gets you the job. There are all sorts of little bits and pieces learned through schooling that helped me to be successful at what I do. The main thing is that a company will teach you everything that you need to know to be successful at your job."
-- business-administration grad
"The writing and critical-thinking skills helped."
"[My coursework prepared me] not at all, but work experience prepared me. I studied political philosophy in school, and I work in the medical staffing industry."
-- political philosophy major
"My coursework has become irrelevant."
-- math grad
"My coursework didn't prepare me at all. I wish I had chosen a different degree."
"I knew that my degree would not be very practical in the real world. However, while I was pursuing my liberal-arts degree, the economy was doing well, and liberal-arts grads were getting good jobs. That unfortunately changed during my last two years of school."
-- philosophy and religion grad
"What I have learned at university helped a lot. Especially the practical subjects. I think that there should be more practical work in the field that you are studying. More field experience will help."
"My coursework made me over-prepared. My skills were more advanced than what was required of me in my job. Some courses I should have placed more of an emphasis on are finance, business writing, and process improvement."
"[My coursework had] zero influence. I wish I had continued with environmental studies, instead of transferring to history in my sophomore year. A note to all future and current college students ... study something useful in college, such as any of the sciences, engineering fields, or a specific such as graphic design or medicine. Do NOT waste your time acquiring a B.A. unless, of course, you TRULY desire to teach history, English, foreign language, etc., AND, if that is your course, be sure to enroll in a program that will allow you to obtain your teaching certificate upon receiving your B.A. Otherwise, major in a B.S., with a minor in a liberal art ... you'll do yourself a world of good."
-- history grad
"I think school provided a good foundation; however, each company has different procedures and expectations that require adjusting, particularly with technological changes."
"The courses that helped me were business communications, public relations, information systems classes, and writing classes. I wish I would have taken an accounting class because it is important to know that."
"My coursework was excellent preparation for the real world. The only thing I need help with is organization."
-- education grad
"I think my coursework in school was not up to date with the trends in the computer world. You need to be aware of what's happening on the outside and apply that to what you're learning on the inside. If the two don't jibe, then you have to ask questions and maybe make a change. If the economy is good and jobs are many, maybe you can get away with it and learn more on the job, but if the economy is bad, you need to be razor sharp in your knowledge of your profession."
"Being able to write ... whether analytical or thoughtful ... you have to convey your thoughts in written form [and skills with] computers give you an edge with different generations."
-- general-business major
"Coursework will never directly correlate to what you do. The best education you can receive as an undergrad is learning about yourself, your likes and dislikes, who you are and who you would like to become. Everything else in a job can be learned."
-- English grad
"My coursework prepared me some for the work I am doing. My most useful tool, however, has been my knowledge of computers. That's something I learned through experience and not coursework."
-- Jo Smith, psychology grad
"I wish my "Computers in Business" course was more robust. Focusing simply on the Microsoft Office suite and one statistical analysis program just doesn't cut it."
-- marketing and Japanese grad
"My education has no correlation to the work I am performing. I wish I had majored in something that is marketable and could enable me to find work that I enjoy."
"College was a total waste of time and money. Computer courses are bordering on obsolete by graduation. There were not nearly enough computer courses in my degree program. I gained no skills to get me a job."
-- computer information systems grad
"My coursework prepared me well, but I would say there were some things that I did not know. There are some courses that I wish my college offered because that is what some of the employers are looking for."
-- electronic engineering technology grad
"[My coursework] helped me only in the sense that it caused me to think analytically and to be critical of what I'm exposed to. The actual material has almost nothing to do with what I'm doing now or interested in."
-- anthropology grad
"I took a management-consulting course that was invaluable. Not only did it give me a chance to hone my analytical skills, but it gave me a great deal of insight and practice in creating and delivering presentations."
"[My coursework prepared me] extremely well. The Regent University curriculum for the MA in organizational leadership is incredibly practical, and it helped me tremendously to set up my own business -- and to utilize my knowledge and expertise in my client organizations. It's been a real value-added experience!
-- Mario Teixeira, MA grad in organizational leadership
"I felt prepared, but many of the skills are developed and honed once you get here. My college program could have left some courses out and replaced them with more relevant ones."
-- English education grad
"You learn 10 percent at college and 90 percent in the work force."
"I have had all the training, but cannot find a position in which I can use that knowledge."
"In the education field, I feel you are thrown out to sink or swim. You are on your own, but you will be judged as if you have been in the career for years."
-- education grad
"I found most of the courses that I have taken in the past to be very theoretical and not very realistic. My advice is to learn more from companies and take on projects in the industry that you want to get into."
"I do not plan to go to grad school. The reason is simply because I find that I have learned more on my job in the last seven months than what I have learned in all my five years of education. I find that work is a bit different from school -- being able to do well in projects does not directly translate into success at work. The rules are different."
"I learned tremendously about job-hunting prior to graduation because I was involved with a co-op program at my university. It has helped me to look into the challenge of competing with other candidates for different positions, resume-writing, and really polishing up on research in order to get your foot in the door. Salary negotiation was a bit harder as generally most people I knew simply took on any positions to gain the experience first rather than negotiating for salary up front. This is an area that I wished I had learned more about."
Go back to The Real World Home Page.
Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.
Stay up to date with the latest salary information form LiveCareer's Salary Calculator!