As we noted in an earlier post, students’ career goals play a large role in their decisions about attending college and following a particular academic path.

However, it’s also important that they leave college with the career skills they’ll need to achieve those goals they’re setting for themselves.

In our Spring 2015 Student Engagement Insights survey, we asked college students: Do you think you’re learning skills that will help you in the future?

College students: do you think you're learning skills that will help you in the future?


Of the 2,880 students who responded to the question, 95% said “Yes,” demonstrating that most students do, in fact, believe that college is providing them with knowledge and skills that will benefit them in the future.

Diving a bit deeper, we also asked them to list some of the skills they’re building in college. Of course, these answers varied from student to student, and major to major. However, we noticed a number of trends in their responses. We’ve summarized them below.

Seven key skills students are gaining from the college experience

1. Skills and training related to their future or current careers. Given that most students attend college and select a major based on a desire to obtain a career in a particular field, it’s not surprising that they listed job-related skills among those that they’ve learned in college. Students mentioned such specific skills as “therapeutic services and techniques,” “programming and analytical skills,” “accounting skills,” “medical terms,” “special education experience,” languages, and more.

2. Leadership. Even if students don’t eventually find themselves at the helm of a company or organization, the management and leadership skills they’re learning in college (such as “organizational skills,” “responsibility,” “staff and student development,” “professionalism,” and “persistence”) will help them succeed in the professional and personal roles they do take on in the future.

3. Communication. The ability to speak with clarity and confidence is essential to one’s success. Undoubtedly, that’s why students appreciate the “public speaking,” “presentation,” and other communication skills that they’ve picked up in college. Students also report that their written communication skills have been sharpened through their college coursework. These skills will prove incredibly useful as they create reports, memos, e-mails, notes to customers, and business plans that will be distributed inside and outside of their organizations.

4. Teamwork. All those group projects have paid off! Several students noted that their college experience has provided them with valuable opportunities to learn about “working in teams,” showing us that students understand that “being a team player” is essential in the classroom, as well as in their careers. One also noted that college has prepared them for “working remotely with people in teams”… a skill that’s very important when you work for a company with multiple sites around the country (or world).

5. Critical thinking and problem solving. As we noted in an earlier survey, the great majority of students believe that critical thinking is an important skill. (We know that instructors believe that teaching critical thinking is important, too!) Clearly, students recognize that the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they’re learning in your classroom will enable them to make sound decisions and help them navigate the issues, challenges, and crises that they’ll face in the workplace, in their homes, and in other social situations.

6. Time management. In order to juggle classes, assignments, social activities, and study time—not to mention other personal and professional responsibilities—students must learn effective time-management skills. Accordingly, a good number of respondents indicated that they have, in fact, picked up improved time-management skills in college. Indeed, these skills will benefit students after graduation, as they seek to balance work, family, and other interests in the future.

7. Interpersonal skills. With stellar “people skills,” students will be able to cultivate solid personal and professional relationships. They’ll also know how to address stickier situations with greater adeptness.

Of course, students will continue to develop these skills (and adopt new ones) throughout their lives. But, it’s good to know that most students recognize the valuable role that their college experiences play in the development of these skills… for today and the future.

What career skills do students learn in your courses? How do you create assignments and experiences that help students build the types of skills they’ll need in the workplace? Share your ideas and strategies in the comments.