Graduate success reaches all-time high at WMU

Contact: Erin Flynn

A graduate walks onto the commencement stage raising his arms in accomplishment.KALAMAZOO, Mich.—"Going to Western Michigan University and the experience I had with my fellow students and professors opened my eyes and my heart to the field of social work," says Johnny Anderson III, who earned his bachelor's degree in 2019 and is now pursuing his master's in the same program while working his dream job at the Family Health Center in Kalamazoo.

College may be a place to go, but Western Michigan University students, faculty and staff know that WMU is a place to become. A survey of 2018-19 graduates offers proof: 94% found a job or education opportunity after graduation, and nearly all of them are working in a field related to their degree. That's the highest engagement rate in the ten-year history of the survey.

"When we say Western is a place to become, we mean it's a place to prepare for your future," says President Edward Montgomery. "These data indicate that we continue to be a leader in preparing students for jobs associated with their majors that pay well and give people incredible satisfaction."

Key data collected by the survey:

  • 94% of WMU graduates are actively engaged in employment, military or volunteer service or furthering their education.
  • The median salary for WMU graduates was $45,000-$50,000.
  • Of those employed full time, 93% have a job related to their degree and 90% are satisfied with their job.
  • 93% of all WMU graduates completed at least one experiential education activity.
  • 90% said that their education and experience at WMU prepared them for their profession.
  • 98% had at least one instructor who made them excited about learning.

Impactful Experiences

Eliza Foli holds a bird while doing field research.

While the statistics are impressive, numbers only tell part of the story.

"What's really important is the engagement of students while they are in school in experiential education," says Dr. Ewa Urban, who coordinates the WMU Post-Graduation Activity Survey.

Urban compiled more than 100 success stories from WMU graduates, and she heard some common themes among them. Virtually all of them emphasized the value of completing an internship and professional networking while they were students. Many also highlighted research opportunities and mentor relationships that propelled them to professional success.

"I would not have known about the world of avian research if I had not gotten involved in the research labs of" Dr. Sharon Gill and Dr. Maarten Vonhof, says Eliza Foli, who majored in biological sciences at WMU and is now working as a seasonal avian ecologist at the University of Georgia.

"They taught me what truly goes into research as well as how to think critically during this process. Working in their labs was essential for me to find my place as a biology student and to open my eyes to what career opportunities I actually had," she says.

"It all starts with a broad range of experiences—from internships to extracurricular experiences that help shape you as a professional and a person and it is recognized by employers," Montgomery says. "Hats off to all of the faculty and staff in offices across the campus who help make this possible."

Career Focus

Johnny Anderson III stands in the atrium of the College of Health and Human Services.

Johnny Anderson III is working for the Family Health Center while pursuing his master's degree.

WMU offers a number of opportunities for students to hone the skills they need to continue on their career path.

Career and Student Employment Services is piloting a new Career Readiness Certification Program for student employees. It gives students the opportunity to develop such competencies as communication, critical thinking and leadership, and teaches them how to articulate those skills to potential employers.

The office also just launched a student strengths-based mentor program. It helps students identify their career strengths and connects them with a mentor in the field to identify jobs where they might excel.

"We are equipping students for life, because they have that self-knowledge and the experiences" to put them on the path to success, says Urban.

The comprehensive report, featuring easily searchable data, is available online at The report breaks down success rates based on college and major, highlights the top employers hiring WMU graduates in each field and offers median salary ranges. It also details student involvement in experiential learning as well as the impact academic and professional relationships had on their Western experience.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.