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Career & Work

Business Majors Get More Jobs but Less Workplace Fulfillment

A touchy-feely approach to higher education may be the way to go after all, according to a Gallup study published this week.

The survey, which collected responses from more than 30,000 U.S. residents with at least a two-year degree, sought clues to what types of college experiences produce graduates who are engaged with their jobs. Gallup views workplace engagement—as measured by intellectual and emotional connection to work, among other factors—as a strong indicator of worker productivity and individual happiness. Professionals with degrees from for-profit schools, however, were less likely to end up at jobs that engaged them.

Among the factors that predict strong engagement: having had a college professor who cared about the respondent as a person, made her excited about learning, or encouraged her to pursue her dreams. People who were active as students in extracurricular activities, internships, or long-term academic projects were also more likely to be engaged with their work.

It’s possible, of course, that people who are engaged in their work and happy in life are simply more likely to remember positive experiences from their college days. With that caveat, here are a few more findings from the Gallup poll.

Going to an elite college mattered less than the quality of experience, as graduates at public, private, selective, and nonselective schools showed comparable rates of workplace engagement.

The larger the student-debt load, the less likely a person was to score highly for overall well-being—which sounds like common sense, as well as a potential argument against attending an elite private school if it means borrowing to pay tuition. Past research has shown that business school students are incurring less debt than students in other professional programs, at least at the graduate level. The Gallup survey shows that undergraduate business majors are landing jobs at higher rates than social science and arts and humanities students—but that business majors are less likely to be engaged with their work.

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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