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How to Improve Career Navigation at Colleges

Jimmy Pawelski
March 13, 2024
4 mins

It’s been nearly impossible to avoid recent headlines regarding college graduate underemployment and concerns about whether institutions are adequately preparing graduates for the workforce. Additionally, the percentage of Americans who have confidence in higher education has recently fallen to just 36% and the average student loan debt has risen to $37,000. On top of these concerns, the looming 2025 demographic cliff is quickly approaching, and it’s particularly evident that small colleges need to act quickly to improve career navigation for students and, in turn, the perceived return-on-investment of a degree.

Among the newest of solutions to address these issues is for institutions to integrate career exploration directly within curriculum as part of completing an academic program. Rather than simply encouraging professional exploration in the subject area being taught at career service centers, "career navigation courses" go as far as to require pathways discovery within the coursework itself.

Why Institutions Should Require Career Navigation in Coursework

While career navigation services have spread across campuses in recent years, the representation of students who utilize them is still underwhelming. In a recent Student Voice survey, over half of respondents said that they've engaged with their college or university career center once or less. Plus, almost half of all job-seeking graduates regret their college major according to a study by ZipRecruiter. The humanities field filled most of the top regretted majors, which as a result disproportionately affects small private colleges.

In light of these statistics and the need for students to seamlessly transition into the workforce post-graduation to realize the return-on-investment of their degree, it is imperative for colleges and universities to reassess the integration of career exploration within the collegiate experience. This is especially crucial for smaller private institutions that may not have the same resources as larger universities.

As the job market becomes increasingly competitive and dynamic, students are seeking more than just a diploma – they want the assurance that their education will directly translate into meaningful employment opportunities. That's why we spent the last several months meeting with students to determine exactly what career navigation resources they need to help identify and secure fulfilling employment after graduation.

What Are Career Navigation Courses?

Career navigation courses are exactly what their name suggests: courses designed to help students navigate the various career paths available in their chosen field of study. They successfully incorporate career guidance into the student experience by achieving each of the four unique themes highlighted in our research report, "Uncovering Pathways to Fulfilling Employment for Every Student":

  • Making career preparation mandatory: Bringing more career preparation exercises into the classroom as mandatory would be welcomed by students who only have time and energy to focus on coursework, and would also solve the pain point career services face in driving engagement.
  • More “Real-World Experience”: Bringing more real-world experiences into the student journey allows students to confidently and quickly decide their pathway. Confident pathway decisions also hit on the critical success measure of student retention for colleges.
  • Mentorship Resources: Students require more professional industry connections and better career advice. Introducing additional mentorship resources hits on both of these needs.
  • Learning About Career Pathways Early and Often: Bringing career pathway explorations into early coursework gives students low-lift, low-investment ways to better understand the prospects available to them by studying different fields. This has downstream effects that lead to more students in the correct field of study. Those students are thereby more likely to retain and graduate.

Rize Education recently announced four new career navigation courses for students majoring in or interested in careers in Business AnalyticsComputer ScienceCybersecurity, and Digital Marketing. These are 200-level "experimental" courses with a deep-focus on assisting students to achieve fulfilling career outcomes by guiding them in exploring potential career paths and salary prospects, acquiring the necessary skills to navigate the job market, fostering confidence in securing an outstanding career post-graduation, and providing insights into the day-to-day aspects of a career or job in their chosen field.

By enrolling in these career navigation courses, students will gain a competitive edge in the job market. And that edge can be entirely credited to their institution providing innovative career exploration opportunities through a new approach to student-centric learning.

How to Add Career Navigation in Courses In 6 Months or Less

As we recently detailed, it’s costly and risky for institutions to create and sustain new academic programs internally alone. That's precisely why Rize utilizes an innovative program sharing model to offer its career navigation courses; an alternative solution to the expensive, uncertain traditional model of building new courses internally.

Connect with the Rize Education team to learn more about adding career-ready undergraduate programs directly into your existing course catalog for a fraction of the traditional cost and risk.

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