The Importance of Career Services in Today’s Colleges and Universities


The parallels between a classroom and a career setting are numerous, and career services offices exist on many campuses to effectively guide students from the former into the latter. Many institutions of higher education aim to show these similarities to their students to emphasize the usefulness of a college degree. These important campus centers help students explore how to use their hard and soft skills in an academic setting before entering the workforce — as well as help them exceed the wants and needs of their future employers so they get the job in the first place.

The line between the classroom and the workplace has never been blurrier. Career Services plays a critical role in helping students understand and illustrate how they will use their skills as an employee.

What Are Career Development Services?

Put simply, career services is an office on many college and university campuses that works to help students “become the best possible marketable job candidates,” according to Forbes. Career services departments give students opportunities to explore career options, understand workplace expectations, hone soft skills like leadership and communication, and even understand the value-add of the degree they are earning.

Career services offices typically provide programs and assistance  designed to give students a competitive edge when entering the workforce:

Internship placement. Higher education institutions generally try to offer their students a hub of internship opportunities that enables them to search for positions that fit their interests and their skills. Career services can help students sort through these internships to find opportunities they qualify for in terms of work experience and completed coursework, as well as coach them through the application and hiring process so they’ll be more prepared when it comes to finding a job post-graduation. 

Job placement. Akin to their approach to internship placement, colleges and universities frequently have databases of job postings that can help students discover careers that fit their skill sets. After they graduate, students can take advantage of their institution’s alumni base to make connections with people with a similar academic background to theirs and leverage that network to learn about job opportunities. Additionally, many career services offices have resume and interview coaching. Some even offer financial guidance to help students feel more confident about finding a job they love and feel rewarded.

Personal development opportunities. In addition to career counseling, career services offices also aid students in self-betterment. Through workshops and courses promoting self-inquiry and character development, students can increase their confidence in their learned abilities and natural talents. Furthermore, career services centers can use their networks to match students to mentors in their chosen fields. At the very least, these mentorship programs give students access to question-answerers and encouragers, and they can often lead to job shadowing, internships, and even result in job offers. 

Alternative credentials. Covering skills useful to both professional and personal advancement, alternative credentials can serve as a supplement to existing curricula and an option for self-guided study. In fact, courses like those offered by FranklinCovey’s LeaderU are web-based and easily integrated into LMS setups such as Canvas and Blackboard. Colleges and universities might choose to provide alternative credential programs to ensure their students are meeting NACE competencies (such as leadership, professionalism, and critical thinking) and graduating with confidence they hold the skills employers want.

These career development services provided by on-campus centers are invaluable and the return on investment for students who take advantage of these programs is continually increasing. But not all students are finding their way to these opportunities.


Why Career Development Services Are Crucial to Student Success

Though they offer as many services as they do, campus career development services have not often gotten the praise they deserve. In recent years, they have been grossly underutilized by students who have not seen their value when it comes to…well, career development. 

Alongside widespread decreases in college attendance, those who do choose to attend institutions of higher education and pursue degree completion do not generally recognize the value of their degrees. Career services offices have unfortunately not been seen as a useful tool for student retention or career development. 

However, according to Forbes, "Graduates who rate their experiences with career services as “very helpful” are 5.8x more likely to strongly agree their alma mater prepared them for post-collegiate life, nearly 3x more likely to strongly agree their education was worth the cost and 3.4x more likely to recommend their alma mater.” Moreover, graduates who have a positive experience with their career development office are almost 3x more likely to make a financial donation to their college or university after they graduate.

Echoing these sentiments, U.S. News reported just last year that “Students who had a good experience with career services at college were more likely to say their school prepared them well for life and more likely to think their university was worth the cost.” However, barely half of the student population ever takes advantage of the unique opportunities provided by these departments.

Fortunately, there has been a recent increase in the demand for career development services at colleges and universities across the nation. Educators and students alike are beginning to recognize degree value as a result of increased hiring rates of college graduates. “[T]here has been a substantial increase in student demand for career services in the past couple of years as evidenced by median in-person appointments — which rose nearly 28% from 827 to 1,055 between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic years,” reports Forbes, summarizing a 2020 NACE report.

Higher ed is due to a dramatic shift in how institutions prepare students to meet the demands of their future employers. The acknowledgment of career services offices’ impact is long overdue but illustrates important progress in giving college and university students more bang for their buck. 

High-quality career services can greatly impact a degree’s value and students’ ROI of their studies. Because of this, colleges and universities are looking to realign the offerings of their career development services to better fit their students’ needs. Many colleges and universities are repositioning where they house these offices within their institutions. In many cases, they were in student affairs offices but are now reporting directly to college boards and presidents. This enables them to focus more on the lives of students after graduation.

FranklinCovey’s LeaderU courses facilitate the personal and professional advancement of future leaders by offering a rich library of verifiable certificate programs. LeaderU Knowledge Certificates are industry-recognized as helping develop the career skills of today’s students and tomorrow’s employees. To learn more about the value-add of offering industry-recognized certificate courses to your curriculum, take a tour of the FranklinCovey Education course catalog. 



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