A full 91 percent of WMU grads find success within three months

Contact: Cheryl Roland

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—New postgraduate success data for Western Michigan University graduates shows 91 percent of new WMU alumni are employed or in graduate school within three months of their graduation.

Photo of two female graduates in full regalia, seated during an WMU commencement ceremony.

The future is bright for WMU graduates.

The 2016-17 version of WMU's annual Postgraduation Success Survey—the most comprehensive such data gathered and published by any public university in Michigan—shows that a full 91 percent of 2016-17 graduates are actively engaged in the next steps of their career paths. Active engagement is defined as employed full or part time, in the military, or in graduate school. A full 77 percent of those graduates who are employed full time are working in Michigan.

"This report captures the fact the WMU graduates are well-prepared for future success and are in great demand by employers within the State and across the world," says WMU President Edward Montgomery. "I am proud of our staff for using the data in this report to create a tool that can be helpful to prospective students and their families as they make decisions about their own career paths."

About the survey

The data is based on responses from a record 77 percent of WMU's 5,205 graduates during the 2016-17 academic year, which closed last summer. This is the eighth year the survey has been completed. In each year, the results have reflected outcomes for a larger percentage of graduates of the University's more than 250 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

"This is our highest response rate ever," says Dr. Ewa Urban, associate director for assessment with WMU's Career and Student Employment Services. Since 2010, she has been coordinating data collection and crafting an annual report that has attracted attention for both the high response rate and the short, three-month time frame between graduation and the student success outcomes recorded.

Urban's most recent report also shows that 85 percent of those who entered the employment world after graduation had a job related to their degree, and 88 percent were satisfied with their job. Median starting salary for those who earned a bachelor's degree was in the $40,000 to $45,000 range, with more than 10 percent of median starting salaries exceeding $65,000.

For those with graduate degrees, the median starting salary was in the $50,000 to $55,000 range, with 28 percent of new grads reporting starting salaries in excess of $65,000.

"A WMU education and degree has the potential to transform lives and open the door to future opportunity. This simple and complete data offers clear and compelling information for incoming students and their families that higher education pays off," notes Montgomery. "The outcomes reflected here are immediate, but the real benefits of earning a degree will continue to play out over the course of our students' entire careers."

Survey results are searchable online

A key feature of the annual report is the easily searchable online data, found at wmich.edu/career/planning. The site breaks data out by college and by majors or programs of study within each college. For each area of study, left-hand links on the site take viewers to a page that offers that discipline's success rates, median salaries, sample employers and job titles for WMU grads as well as sample graduate programs to which WMU grads are headed.

Photo of three WMU students speaking with a recruiter at a career fair.

The survey results are searchable online by college and major.

A prospective student could look up environmental and sustainability studies, for instance, and find that 92 percent of last year's bachelor's degree graduates were actively engaged and working in such positions as a geospatial data analyst at Forensic Fluid Labs or in fire and life safety at Pfizer. The median starting salary range in the discipline for those with a bachelor's degree was in the $40,000 to $45,000 range.

A student looking into a paper engineering degree would find a 100 percent engagement rate, median salary of $65,000 to $70,000 and new alumni working in such jobs as a process engineer at Kimberly Clark or a research chemist at silicone paper manufacturer Loparex.

"Career exploration information for new and current students is part of the goal of this effort," says Urban. "This year, we worked very hard to make that exploration easier and offer a detailed look at the types of jobs and names of employers for recent graduates."

In addition to active engagement and salaries, the survey results showcase a wealth of other important information. Findings from the 2016-17 survey reveal that:

  • Internships play a critical role in postgraduate employment. Just over 84 percent of WMU grads completed an internship or other experiential opportunity while in school.
  • While 77 percent of the year's class found employment in Michigan, new alumni launched their careers in 46 other states and 26 other nations.
  • Those continuing their education were enrolled at 117 graduate schools around the world, ranging from Harvard and MIT to the EHESP French School of Public Health in Paris and Cranfield University in the United Kingdom.

The report also lists the top employers of WMU alumni with a bachelor's degree as well as the top employers of those who have earned a graduate degree. Also listed are the top employers with which students held internships or some other type of experiential education while they were WMU students.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.