AAC&U News, June 2014

Engagement in College, Engagement in the Workplace: Findings from the Gallup-Purdue Index

The last year has seen an increase in scrutiny of the employment rates and salaries of college graduates from various institutions and majors. But are those graduates who are employed actively engaged in their jobs, or are they simply marking time in the office? The Gallup-Purdue index examines levels of workplace engagement according to graduates’ academic majors, time to degree, institutional type, and a range of other factors, including learning experiences in college.

The study found minimal difference in engagement levels between graduates with different majors, and almost no difference between graduates of different types of institutions. However, the activities that graduates participated in while at college, and the interactions they had with faculty, correlated significantly with levels of engagement in the workplace. The study also looked at factors relating to graduates’ well-being and attachment to their alma maters.

Employment and Engagement of College Graduates

  • The majority of college graduates in the United States (57 percent) work full time for an employer (not self-employed); the percentage rises to 65 percent for recent graduates (receiving degrees between 2010 and 2014).
  • Amongst employed college graduates, 39 percent report being engaged at work, 49 percent not engaged, and 12 percent actively disengaged.
  • Graduates with degrees in the arts and humanities or the social sciences are more likely to be engaged at work (41 percent are engaged) than those who studied the sciences (38 percent) or business (37 percent), though science and business graduates are slightly more likely to be employed full time (63 and 61 percent, respectively) than arts and humanities or social science graduates (52 and 53 percent).

Experiences in College

  • Support from faculty in college is also correlated with later workplace engagement. Graduates who report interacting with professors who cared about them as people, who made them excited about learning, or who served as a mentor are more than twice as likely to be engaged at work as those who didn't have these interactions.
  • Graduates who had high-impact educational experiences in college are also more likely to be engaged at work. Graduates who participated in internships, extracurricular and cocurricular activities, and projects that took a semester or more to complete are more than twice as likely to report being engaged at work as those who haven’t had these experiences.
  • However, only 6 percent of graduates had all three of these experiences: 32 percent had done a long-term project, 29 percent held an internship or similar experience, and 20 percent were actively involved in extracurricular activities. Only 3 percent of graduates had all three types of experience and meaningful personal interaction with faculty.

Institutional Type and Time to Degree

  • There was little difference in workplace engagement between graduates of public institutions versus those from private nonprofit institutions (38 percent and 40 percent, respectively), though graduates of for-profit institutions reported significantly lower levels of engagement (29 percent).
  • There is also little difference between the engagement levels of graduates of selective and nonselective institutions, or those who graduated from institutions of different Carnegie types.
  • Time to degree had some effect on engagement at work: 40 percent of graduates who finished a bachelor’s degree in four years or less report being engaged at work, compared with 34 percent of those who took five or more years.

Download the full report from Gallup.


  • Only 39 percent of college graduates feel actively engaged at their current place of employment.
  • Graduates who have had meaningful interactions with professors are twice as likely to be engaged at work.
  • There is minimal difference in the engagement levels of graduates from public or private institutions or those with different majors

About AAC&U News

AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.


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