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Employers Less Interested in College Major Than Critical Thinking Skills, Survey Finds

Monday, April 15, 2013
By Alicia Biggs

Some 74 percent of business and nonprofit leaders said they would recommend obtaining a liberal arts education to a young person they knew in order to prepare for long-term professional success in the global economy, according to survey results released April 10 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

About 93 percent of employers surveyed said the capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than a candidate's undergraduate major, according to the report,It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success.

“While policy leaders have been focused intensely on what college students are choosing as their majors and what salaries they are being paid shortly after they graduate, business leaders who actually hire college graduates are urging us to prioritize the cross-cutting capacities a college education should develop in every student, in every major,” Mildred Garcia, president of California State University, Fullerton, and chair of AACU's board of directors, said in an April 10 statement. “No matter what careers students seek, their college education must equip them with intercultural skills, ethical judgment, and a sophisticated understanding of the diversity of our society and of any successful business or organization.”

The survey was conducted Jan. 9-13 among 318 employers with at least 25 employees or more by Hart Research Associates.

Some 95 percent of respondents said they prioritize hiring college graduates with skills that will help them contribute to innovation in the workplace, the survey results found. About 95 percent of those surveyed also said it was important that employees they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning.

More than 75 percent of those surveyed say they want more emphasis on five key areas including critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.

Some 80 percent of employers agreed that, regardless of major, every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.

By Alicia Biggs

Text of the survey results are available at /uploadedFiles/Content/News/Legal_and_Business/Bloomberg_Law/Legal_Reports/2013_EmployerSurvey(1).pdf.

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