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Eye on Psi Chi: Spring 2018

Eye on Psi Chi

Spring 2018 | Volume 22 | Issue 3

What's YOUR Job Outlook?

Paul Hettich, PhD, DePaul University (IL)

View this issue in Digital and PDF formats.

In November 2017, the National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed employers to obtain their hiring intentions for 2018 college graduates and collect data regarding other employment issues (NACE, 2017). The report, Job Outlook 2018, is free to NACE members. If your school is a member, the counseling department may have a copy; otherwise, the price to nonmembers is $52.00. View my summary below not only as a jobs report, but also as a series of workplace issues that are important to employers and, therefore, important to you well before you begin your job search. Job Outlook 2018 is, in large part, a roadmap to your job search.

NACE conducted their survey between early August and early October 2017 and obtained 201 usable surveys, reflecting a 20.5% response rate. The 13 industries that comprise the sample include Manufacturing (food and beverage, chemical/pharmaceutical, computer and electronics, motor vehicle, and miscellaneous), Services (information, finance/insurance/real estate, accounting, management consulting, and miscellaneous professional services), and Trade (wholesale and retail). Healthcare related organizations are not represented, so its employment needs are not reflected in the “hiring plans” and “Who is in demand?” sections below.

What Are the Industries’ Hiring Plans?

The employers in this sample plan to hire 4% more graduates during 2018 than the previous year, down from 5% in fall 2017 and down from 11% in fall 2016. Despite the downward trend, 92% of the employers rated the job market for 2017–18 graduates as good (46.3%), very good (38.2%), or excellent (7.4%). The NACE survey was conducted during fall because 70% of these employers hire during that period, while 30% hire during spring—information that juniors and seniors should remember as they plan their job search.

Who Is in Demand?

The NACE data forecasts that, on average, 83.4% of new hires will have bachelor’s degrees, 12.1% master’s degrees, 2.4% associate’s degree, 1.7 doctorates, and 0.4% professional degrees (e.g. JD, MD). All companies in this sample plan to hire baccalaureate graduates. The percentage of the employers who plan to hire particular majors include business (86%), engineering (67%), computer and information sciences (58%), math and sciences (40%), communications (35%), social sciences (25%), humanities (14%), agriculture and natural resources (8%), health care (6%), and education (3%). Within the social sciences category, psychology ranked in the middle, below economics and political science/international relations but above sociology and social work. Although 44% of the new social science hires would be psychology majors, only 14 (7%) of the 201 organizations planned to hire psychology majors. As you digest these statistics, note the number of career-specific majors above social sciences. If these hiring statistics are discouraging, recall that seven of the industries were manufacturing and trade, and the health care field is minimally represented. Although this sample does not reflect the complete labor market, stay tuned because the information below is very important for you to understand and would pertain to psychology majors.

How Do Employers View Candidates?

Sixty-eight percent of these employers screen applicants for grade point average, and 70% use a cutoff of 3.0; expect variations in these values because some industries screen all applicants for GPA. If you have earned a high GPA, feel proud but don’t expect to be hired because of it. If your GPA is below 3.0, don’t give up, especially if you had considerable job, family, or related commitments. Some employers assign greater weight to work experiences than to GPA.

Before you obtain an interview, your resumé will be screened by individuals or software for your skills and experiences. The proportion of employers seeking skills on the resumé include:

  • Problem solving skills 83%
  • Ability to work in a team 83%
  • Written communication skills 80%
  • Leadership 73%
  • Strong work ethic 68%
  • Analytical/Quantitative skills 68%
  • Verbal communication skills 68%
  • Initiative 68%
  • Detail oriented 64%
  • Flexibility/Adaptability 61%
  • Technical skills 60%
  • Interpersonal skills 55%
  • Computer skills 49%
  • Organization skills 49%

Chances are that your college or university has provided you with ample opportunities to develop each of these skills, at least to some level of competency. It is unlikely that a hiring manager or interviewer would expect to see all the skills reflected on your resumé, but for the skills you list, be prepared to provide evidence about the ways you achieved them. Some interviewers may also ask for an electronic skills portfolio, which your career center may help you create.

How does an employer decide between two equally qualified candidates? An internship within the industry or organization to which you are applying is their first preference. Other important factors are the academic major (relevance to the job), leadership experience, work experience, GPA, and extracurricular involvement, in that order. Of lesser importance are the school attended and volunteer work, then fluency in a foreign language and study abroad. The ranking of these factors sometimes varies from year to year in the NACE report.

NACE asked the employers to identify the importance of eight essential career readiness competencies in applicants and to judge the proficiency of graduates on each. Figure 1 compares the essential competencies to employer perceptions of graduates’ proficiency in these competencies.

Figure 1 reveals that employers are nearly unanimous in identifying the most essential career readiness competencies applicants need: Professionalism/work ethic, critical thinking/problem solving, teamwork/collaboration, and oral/written communication. However, on only three competencies (teamwork/collaboration, digital technology, and critical thinking/problem solving) do 50% or more of the employers believe graduates are proficient. Digital technology is the only competency where employer expectations matches graduates’ proficiency; teamwork/collaboration reflects the next lesser discrepancy. In short, when most graduates enter the workforce, they are likely to be far less proficient on the essential competencies than their employers desire. Chances are that employers will differ on the importance and level of particular competencies for entry level positions and will expect new hires to further develop them on the job.

What Should You Do With This Information?

The report identified employer needs by educational level and academic major. Psychology is not in high demand based on this sample, but that does not mean that psychology majors cannot obtain jobs in these or other industries. A report by Burning Glass Industries (a data analytics firm) identified eight career-specific fields (skillsets) that liberal arts graduates can enter with above average compensation provided they possess an academic minor, internship, or significant coursework in one of these fields: sales, marketing, general business, social media, graphic design, data analysis, computer programming, and IT networking (2013). Psychological concepts are critical components in many of these jobs, especially sales and marketing, so consider these fields as career options.

In support of obtaining a career-specific minor, coursework, or internship, Hart Research Associates reported that “Three in five employers believe that it takes BOTH specific knowledge/skills and broad knowledge/skills to achieve long term success” (2015, p. 3). In short, most employers value your liberal arts education, but they also want their applicants to have career-specific coursework and experiences. A wealth of information about career options may be found at the Appleby (2016) online career resources website listed in the References.

Review those skills that employers seek on a resumé. What skills do you possess and what supporting evidence can you provide? What specific activities should you perform to strengthen your skills in the career field you seek? Job Outlook 2018 identified characteristics that employers consider when two applicants are equally qualified. If you were searching for a job now, what would you say about an internship, your work experiences, leadership roles, and extracurricular activities?

The report presented employer ratings of eight essential career competencies. How would you rate yourself on each based on your college experiences to date? What specific actions can you take during the remainder of college to strengthen these competencies? To what extent does your part-time job help you develop them?


Job Outlook 2018 is not just a jobs report. It is also a roadmap for using your remaining time in college to prepare for the workforce. What steps will you take tomorrow or next week to plan for the good job and the good life you seek, outcomes that motivated you to invest considerable time, money, and personal capital in a college education with a psychology major? It’s your decision.


Appleby, D. (2016). An online career exploration resource for psychology majors.

Society for Teaching of Psychology, Office of Teaching Resources. Retrieved from

Burning Glass Technologies (2013). The art of employment: How liberal arts graduates can improve their labor market prospects. Boston, MA. Retrieved from

Hart Research Associates. (2015). Falling short? College learning and career success. Washington, DC. Retrieved from Association of Colleges and Universities website.

National Association of Colleges and Employers. Job Outlook 2018. Bethlehem, PA: NACE.

Paul Hettich, PhD, Professor Emeritus at DePaul University (IL), was an Army personnel psychologist, program evaluator in an education R&D lab, and a corporate applied scientist—positions that created a “real world” foundation for his career in college teaching and administration. He was inspired to write about college-to-workplace readiness issues by graduates and employers who revealed a major disconnect between university and workplace expectations, cultures, and practices. You can contact Paul at

Copyright 2018 (Vol. 22, Iss. 3) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology

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