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Recruiting Intelligence

International Student Employability: How Do US Universities Stack Up?



It’s that time of year again—graduation! But amidst the accomplishments and excitement there is one thing weighing heavily on your students’ minds: what happens next!?

They have put in the time and effort, secured their degree and are now looking for the next step: a job. But just because graduation only happens once a year, doesn’t mean that’s the only time you should be thinking about your university’s employability data.

Bottom Line: While your website, social media pages, brochures and emails surely highlight all of the best things about your location, campus, programs, professors and activities, are you factoring in your employability data? Students (and their families) are really looking for that bit of security.

So, how exactly does the U.S. stack up in terms of placing students in jobs post-grad? Turns out, pretty well. The U.S. is the most desirable destination for international students. Its’ universities are dominating employability rankings and it has a comparatively low youth unemployment rate. This is the kind of data that can benefit your marketing efforts, whether or not your school is highlighted in the data.

Side Note: Are you going to the NAFSA Conference in Denver? We will be co-presenting with FPPEDUMedia and sharing our latest research on how current global, economic and political events are impacting students’ plans to study abroad—you don’t want to miss this! Set up a time to chat with us while you’re there, we’d love to meet you in person.

Please read on. Emily will share our perspective on employability data and international student recruitment...



Source: “How Do Students Use Rankings” Topuniversities.com

If students chose how universities are ranked, most of them would do it by how employable a university’s graduates are. That is great news for U.S. universities because the United States has a solid reputation for internationally recognized, quality degrees that create an employable workforce. And, as we pointed out last week, the U.S. is creating an above average environment for youth employment.

In 2015, Times Higher Education measured how well universities did in terms of graduate employability. The U.S. took seven of the top 10 slots. With the U.S. attracting more career-focused international students than any other country in the world, that's good news.


Youth Unemployment Rate

Number of Universities on Times Higher Education’s “Global Employability Ranking” (Source)

Number of International Students in UNESCO Institute for Statistics (Source)

United States




United Kingdom
















So let’s recap what we've learned so far:

  • The U.S. is the most desirable destination for international students

  • U.S. universities are dominating employability rankings and it has a comparatively low youth unemployment rate.

Impressive, right? This is the kind of data that can benefit your marketing efforts, whether or not your school is highlighted in the data.

If your institution doesn't have strong employment data for international students yet, you may be thinking, “how can I benefit from this?” Well, in marketing, reputation is essential. Positive data like this shows that U.S.’s tertiary education is well-respected and well known by employers. So, don’t worry that your institution didn’t make the list. We’ll give you a couple of pointers that will help you get there.

It all boils down to two action points:

  1. Highlight relevant employment data that you do have

  2. Highlight your student career support program (You have a strong one that is able to help international students, right? If not, this is a critical growth area for next year!)

Utilize Relevant Employment Data

In last week's blog, we mentioned the low-ish U.S. youth unemployment rate and how that is a significant point to make in student recruitment. We also talked about how the Erasmus+ program is highlighting their employment data. The number of students in Erasmus+ doubled last year!

Under the framework of Erasmus+, the European institutions that are involved have developed a reputation for quality education. Adopting this approach can help you brand your institution. U.S. education is respected and its universities are creating a skilled workforce. Find ways to tag that fact in your marketing campaigns. Show international students that they will be employable with a degree from your U.S. institution. Provide examples of students who have secured jobs based on their degree and skills. Highlight regional employers in different industries. Highlight alumni working in various industries and alumni networking opportunities your institution provides (Linked In data can be very helpful here). All of this can help students and their parents see the benefits your institution offers post-graduation.

Provide Career Support for International Students

But how exactly do you help your students become employed? Convincing employability data doesn’t exist without employed alumni, and it can be more difficult for international students to find jobs outside of their home countries. In 2015, Daily Pennsylvania highlighted the University of Pennsylvania's efforts to help international students secure work. We took notes. Take a look at how many of their international students are employed!

According to data from Career Services last year, 69.1% of international graduates who responded to career surveys reported that they were employed full-time; Penn as a whole had a 72.7% full-time employment rate. Of those international students who held full-time positions, 76.9% reported that they worked in America.”

Recognizing the obstacles international students face in finding employment is key to helping them overcome these barriers. The H1-B visa is incredibly difficult to obtain and any help students can find for securing a sponsor is critical. International students may apply for programs like curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT). But, they need help to navigate the U.S. hiring systems. Are you making this easier for them?

The most important factor in improving your international students’ employability is training your career center staff to help these students. Their needs are specific. International students need to know how to leverage their international experience on their resumes and how to impress U.S. companies or employers back home.

If your career services staff has never left the country or generally find international students difficult to work with, you have a problem here. Providing resume and cover letter critique services, mock interviews and other services specific to your international students will show that you are invested in their education and their future career. NAFSA has a number of publications that can be helpful to your staff on these points.

The steps are clear, and as a U.S. institution, you have a head start. Leverage the United States’ reputation, aid your students’ employment efforts the best you can and share your success in your recruitment marketing content.

There are a range of U.S. institutions that are doing this well. You already know who they are and they typically top the charts for international student growth rates. See the correlation? We do 😊.