Top 5 survey data takeaways: MIT students have opportunities to be successful in many fields

This is MIT, so it’s no surprise that we love data. In 2021, students shared their experiences for three surveys, facilitated through Institutional Research: The Doctoral Exit Results Survey (DES) for PhD students, the Graduating Student Survey (GSS) for Bachelor’s and Master’s students, and the Summer Experience Survey (SES) for returning undergraduate students. Career Advising and Professional Development (CAPD) uses this data to inform our work, but it also provides helpful insights for MIT’s students, staff, and employers. 

Looking at the data from a big-picture perspective, CAPD has identified five main highlights focused on students’ skill-building and future plans. 

For MIT undergraduate and graduate students, this is the most important insight from the data: There are opportunities for success in many fields, whether you choose to pursue employment and or continuing education. 

1. Internship conversion rates have increased for Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates 

Out of the 2021 graduates responding to the GSS, 50% of Bachelor’s students and 31% of Master’s students shared that a previous internship or externship led to the job offer that they accepted. That’s up from 36% of Bachelor’s students and 29% of Master’s students in 2020 — and 39% and 26% (respectively) in 2019 — demonstrating a year-over-year increase of internship conversion rates.  

This is particularly useful information, since a substantial portion of MIT undergraduate and Master’s students — in 2021, 82% of Bachelor’s graduates and 60% of Master’s graduates who responded to the GSS — have internships during their time at the Institute. 

Why the increase in internship conversion rates? It’s not possible to identify one definitive answer, but there are trends in recruiting behavior. The pool of interns was smaller in 2021, since there were fewer internships offered in summer 2020 — according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) COVID-19 Quick Poll Series, 25.1% of employers reduced the number of interns they were hiring in 2020.  

The NACE 2022 Job Outlook data shows that the greatest influential attribute for hiring decisions is the completion of an internship with their company. “Employers are recognizing that they have to be more active to get the top talent,” explained Francis Borrego, CAPD Senior Assistant Director of Employer Relations. “That includes doing their best to retain interns that they know are a fit for their organization. This is one of the best markets for students that I’ve ever seen, especially those with hard skills.” 

2. UROP builds a foundation for first-year undergraduate students 

In 2021, 40% of first-year undergraduate SES respondents completed a summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) project at MIT or at an affiliated institution, compared to 33% who interned. That gap may not seem substantial, so it’s helpful to compare to the sophomores’ data: 20% of sophomores spent their summers in a UROP and 63% interned. Experiences like UROP participation in the first year prepare students interested in internships for their second-year summer. 

UROP is particularly helpful for first-years, as it can be difficult for new college students to secure a summer internship. Many first-year students are still learning to articulate their skills, and some employers historically look for upper-level candidates. Participating in UROP enables students to build skills, competencies, and connections for their future goals. 

It’s important to note that the dip in summer participation for sophomores doesn’t correlate to a lower interest in UROPs across the academic year — just a shift in timing. While it’s more challenging to find internships during the fall or spring, UROPs are often available to students as a compliment to their coursework. The majority of MIT students participate in at least one UROP at some point during their time on campus — 93% of 2021 Bachelor’s graduates completed a UROP during their time at MIT, while 82% interned. 

3. Interest in graduate and medical school has grown 

In 2021, 43% of Bachelor’s degree graduates intended to pursue graduate school in the fall, the highest percentage by 2-9% in the last seven years. This trend is interesting, since rising graduate school interest usually correlates to a particularly difficult economy. While the economy has experienced disruption throughout the pandemic, most MIT students had multiple options to pursue in 2021. 

In particular, more MIT students and alumni applied to medical school in 2021 — likely due to the “Fauci Effect,” as well as the impact of healthcare workers throughout the pandemic. In 2021, CAPD’s Prehealth Advising team supported 94 applicants to medical school; in 2017, there were just 79 applicants. To put that number in context, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported 9,413 more applicants in 2021 than 2020 – between 2012 and 2020, the year-over-year change topped out at around 3,000. 

It’s likely that graduate and professional programs will continue to be more competitive due to increased and delayed applications, but 2021’s GSS data shows that many MIT students continue to be successful in receiving placements at top programs including Harvard, UC Berkley, Princeton, Stanford, and — of course — MIT. 

4. Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD students are participating in experiential learning and developing skills outside of the classroom 

According to the GSS and the DES, a majority of students participated in one or more experiential learning or extracurricular opportunity during their degree program: 

  • 93% of undergraduates participated in a UROP  
  • 83% of PhD students were teaching assistants (TAs) and 93% were research assistants (RAs) 
  • 82% of undergraduates, 60% of Master’s students, and 37% of PhD students had an internship  
  • 78% of undergraduates, 62% of Master’s students, and 48% of PhD students engaged in leadership activities  
  • 48% of undergraduates, 25% of Master’s students, and 39% of PhD students took part in service  
  • 47% of undergraduates and 18% of Master’s students had educational experiences abroad  

These experiences provide opportunities to hone a student’s soft skills, which are a key factor in employability. In 2021, THE’s Global Employability Rankings saw employers rank “Graduate Skills” or “Soft Skills and Digital Literacy” as their most important factor when considering new hires — in 2019, it was driver #4.  For short-term employability, employers ranked their most-desired soft skills as problem solving and critical thinking; initiative; technology affinity; curiosity; and resilience. Top long-term employability skills were communication; creativity; collaboration; social and cultural awareness; emotional intelligence; and programming skills. Learn more about MIT graduates’ employability in CAPD’s previous data reporting article 

5. The impact of Covid-19 on students’ employment 

It’s 2022, so you won’t be shocked to hear that Covid-19 disrupted students’ recruiting experience. While trends towards hybrid work and virtual interviewing opened more opportunities, uncertainty dominated the recruiting cycle.  

“More organizations hosted remote internships, so students didn’t get the onsite experience. And it’s harder to tell an organization’s team culture and office culture over Zoom,” Borrego explained. Also, as new variants emerged, employers had to change their plans. “There were a number of employers who were hoping to host students in-person, but had to change with Delta, and then with Omicron.” 

The good news? Despite the previous years’ disruptions, industry trends show that this is a positive job market for students entering the recruiting cycle with an MIT degree. In the NACE 2022 Job Outlook, respondents planned to hire 26.6% more new graduates than last year, and almost 60% of employers shared plans to increase hires in 2022 — a dramatic increase from 2021’s 16.5% of respondents planning to increase hires. Looking at those numbers, it’s no surprise that 62.7% of 2022 Job Outlook respondents rated the job market for 2021-22 graduates as “very good” or “excellent.” 

Learn more 

Interested in learning more about student successes? View the annual Graduating Student Survey, Doctoral Exit Results Survey, and Summer Experiences Survey

By Lydia Huth
Lydia Huth Communications Specialist