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Where Do Top College Graduates Start Their Careers?

Where Do Top College Graduates Start Their Careers?

Study looks at mobility of students after they complete their college degree.

In a recent paper, the United States Small Business Administration posits that high-achieving graduates of colleges and universities tend to move from the state where they got their college degree to states with higher gross state product growth.

What does this mean for you? Learning where other graduates moved during the ten years after completing their college degree programs can give you valuable advice about where to live and the job prospects you’re likely to face in different areas.

The Paper’s Findings

Although all states invest in the education of its youth, the assumption that the number of high-achieving graduates of in-state college degree programs who move to other states will be balanced out by equally talented workers moving in may not be true, according to this study.

Students choose to stay in their states or move out of them after completing degrees and colleges and universities for two primary reasons: family commitments and job prospects. While students with strong family ties tend to stay locally, bachelors degree students from top schools who are more focused on their careers are more likely to be drawn away by improved job possibilities and economic growth. However, there are other factors that play a role in the choices bachelors degree graduates make about where to start their careers.

How Success in College Impacts Career Choices

According to this paper, how well a student performs during a college degree can significantly impact where they live after completing their degree program:

  • Students who earned top grades during their college education were more likely to move out of state. This was particularly true for students who chose to be self-employed, but was also true among those who earn a salary or wage in their careers.
  • The choice of major during a bachelors degree did not significantly seem to affect a student’s mobility, with two exceptions: Students who chose to major in Education or Business were more likely to stay within their state.
  • States that experience more economic growth tend to draw the most successful workers seeking to start a career. This is particularly true of states that focus on innovation and the “knowledge economy.”
  • There were a number of factors that kept bachelors’ degree graduates from moving. Students who completed their college degree after than the traditional age were less likely to relocate, as were students who were married and had children. Homeownership was also an important factor in keeping students from moving out of state.

Key Takeaways from the Paper’s Findings

If you’re a recent college graduate planning your next career moves and considering moving out of state, the findings of this paper can help you make decisions for yourself. For example, if you plan to purchase a home in coming years, you may want to move away now to experience life outside your state, since the study shows that home ownership can keep people in-state and make it harder for them to move.

Also, to better your chances for career growth, look into long-term career prospects in your state and other states you’d like to live in to see which can offer you the most opportunities for economic growth. States focused on innovation may be able to provide a more broad range of career possibilities, but other states might go to greater lengths to hold on to good employees.

About the Paper

The paper, called Educational Attainment, “Brain Drain, and Self-Employment: Examining the Interstate Mobility of Baccalaureate Graduates, 1993-2003, is based on research by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy and evaluated student behavior between 1993 and 2003. To assess student mobility, the paper asked graduates from the class of 1993 to answer a series of questions about their career and where they lived.

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