Only 2.3 percent of college students plan to work for federal government, survey finds

Monday - 2/6/2012, 2:01am EST

Tim McManus, vice president of education and outreach, Partnership for Public Service

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A survey of more than 35,000 college and university students found only 2.3 percent plan to work in the federal government after leaving school.

The Partnership for Public Service analyzed the results of the 2011 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey.

"The results are both alarming and replete with challenges for federal hiring managers and human resources professionals who are charged with attracting a new generation of skilled employees to our government," according to the Partnership report.

Graphic by Partnership for Public Service

The prospect of working for the public sector is higher for former federal interns — 17.9 percent said they planned to work for the federal government.

About 6 percent of those surveyed said they planned to work for government at any level — state, local or federal.

The Partnership report said the NACE results indicate the number of students planning to join the public sector has declined in the past two years. This decrease as coincided with a federal civilian pay freeze, as well as legislative proposals to cut federal pay and benefits.

Agencies will continue to face hardships in recruiting students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math. These students said they expected to make a starting salary of at least $60,000. However, the starting salaries for these fields in federal government for people with an undergraduate degree are not competitive with the private sector, the report said.

Overall, students said the characteristics most important in their first job are the opportunity for personal growth, job security and good benefits, in that order. Less than 9 percent of students said a high starting salary was the most important characteristic.

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