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The Center for Global Education promotes international education to foster cross-cultural awareness, cooperation and understanding. Living and working effectively in a global society requires learning with an international perspective.

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Impact of Study Abroad on Career and Professional Development

The Center for Global Education at California State University, Dominguez Hills is involved in research focused on the impact of study abroad for U.S. college and university students. While most instruments and previous research have focused on international and intercultural learning, there is an increasing focus on the impact of study abroad for professional development and career.

Following is a collection of statements and references related to "Research Findings" and "Special Programs" that provide additional insights to the impact of study abroad to student professional development and career. Support for the collection of this data has been provided by Ann Hubbard, Vice President, Director of University Relations for Customized Programs and Academic Assessment, AIFS Study Abroad. Iwe would appreciate hearing from you about special programs and research findings related to the impact of study abroad on professional development and career at your university or college.

This resource is developed with the support of Terra Dotta Software

Student Surveys, Impact of Study Abroad
The impact of an international education on college acceptance and career development. One of the very first publications on the impact of study abroad on career development and success.

A historical look at study abroad outcomes, reported several years post-graduation.

Key findings:
Alumni reported that study abroad had increased their:
International awareness 73%
Adaptability/flexiblity 77%
Understanding of global issues 65%
Maturity 100%
Proficiency in a foreign language 97%

AIFS (1988). Stamford, CT. Retrieved from ERIC Document
Impact of International Education 1987 Booklet
AIFS study abroad outcomes: A view from our alumni 1990-2010. This reports the findings of a survey conducted in 2012 of 1,600 AIFS program alumni. The outcomes are categorized by Global Awareness and Intercultural Development, Personal Growth and Career & Professional Development.

Key findings (combines Strongly Agree and Agree responses):

  • 80% of respondents said study abroad contributed to my ability to adapt in diverse workplace environments.
  • 68% said study abroad contributed to developing their ability to understand an organizations culture.
  • 87% said studying abroad contributed to their ability to take initiative.

Retrieved from:
AIFS Study Abroad Outcomes
Gaining an employment edge: The impact of study abroad on 21st century skills & career prospects in the United States, 2013- 2016. Survey results of 4,500 college graduates who had studied abroad alumni, examines the reported skills developed abroad and with regard to program type, duration, etc.

Key findings:
Graduates reported skill development or improvement through study abroad in these samplings of areas (percentage shown combines Significantly and To some degree responses):
90% - Interpersonal Skills
87% - Problem-Solving
71% - Foreign Language Skills
94% - Intercultural Skils

Farrugia, C., & Sanger, J. (2017). Institute of International Education (IIE) New York.

Retrieved from:
Gaining an Employment Edge: The Impact of Study Abroad

Career outcomes of study abroad students: survey of IES Abroad alumni 2012- 2015. Examines the value graduates place on their study abroad experience with regard to decisions about career and skill development.

Key findings:

  • 42% of alumni said having studied abroad influenced their decision to go to graduate school.
  • For alumni who entered the workforce following graduation, half felt that their study abroad experience helped them to get their first job.
  • 54% reported that studying abroad helped develop confidence to deal with new skills required for the job.

Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). (2016). Chicago, IL.

Retrieved from
Career Outcomes of Study Abroad Students

Resources for working with students (workbooks, etc).
Planning for Study Abroad with Recruiting and Your Career in Mind
  • This student handout is intended to help prompt a process of reflection to turn one's study abroad experience into an articulation of skills.
  • Provides some examples of what students might say to employers to address the positive gains from studying abroad.
Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER). (2013), Austin, TX

Retrieved from
Study Abroad and Career Planing for Study Abroad

Career Coach: How to tell a story for a job interview.This article describes the technique of behavioral interviewing and explains why interviewers want to hear actual stories about the job candidate having previously demonstrated a skill.

This is a succinct and relevant article to share with students; it offers credibility from a business perspective on the importance of preparing stories in advance.

Kudisch, J. (2014). Washington Post. Washington, DC. December 5, 2014.

Retrieved from:

AIFS Student Guide to Study Abroad & Career Development This workbook guides students to consider why they are studying abroad, taking advantage of career connections while abroad, and examining the skills they developed upon their return. By Martin Tillman, AIFS Study Abroad, Stamford, CT (2011).

Retrieved from:
Tillman AIFS Student Guide Career

Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience: Critical Reflection for Workplace Competencies
  • An essential read for anyone preparing to facilitate a session for returned students to help them examine the skills they developed abroad and talk about them in ways that employers will appreciate.
  • Provides theories relevant to supporting study abroad and career skills programming on campus.
  • There are few examples where students themselves did not recognize they were developing skills in challenging situations abroad; very helping in understanding how to help students through this process (pp. 7-8).
  • The authors stress the value of including peer interaction in these sessions so that students can help one another identify skills, etc.
Gardner, P., Gross, L., & Steglitz, I. (2008). CERI Research Brief 1-2008 Collegiate Employment Research Institute, 1(1), 110.

Retrieved from:

Back in the U.S.A.:
Reflecting on your study abroad experience and putting it to work.
This student workbook and trainer guide are designed for use in workshops for students who are returning (or returned) from study abroad.

It is available from NAFSA as a single copy or in a pack of 25 student copies and one trainer guide.

Kepets, D. (1999). Washington, DC: NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Hidden Competences The website offers a toolkit for students, What kind of international competences do you have? and materials that advisors can use with students. Center for International Mobility (CIMO), 2014. Helsinki, Finland.

Scroll down this page to find links to student toolkit and materials for advisors and trainers:

Also, see full report (referenced in Higher Education Internationalization section of this website too):
Faktaa Hidden Competences 2014

The Field Guide to ePortfolios Chapter 11 ePortfolios and Internationalization: Meeting the Needs of the Emergent Global LeaderePortfolios are a tool for students to highlight their international experience. This guide provides theoretical and practical information on the rationale for and use of ePortfolios with students. Chapter 11, focused on internationalization, features sample ePortfolios where students highlight their study abroad experiences.The Association for Authentic, Experiential and Evidence-Based Learning

Find Field Guide here:
Field Guide Project (scroll down page to find pdf link to guide; see chapter 11).

Employer Surveys
Culture at work Employers report on the skills they value most in the workplace, including the specific reasons why certain traits contribute to an organization's success in an international/intercultural setting.

Key findings:
The five skills most highly-valued by employers (globally):

  • Demonstrates respect for others.
  • Builds trust.
  • Works effectively in diverse teams.
  • Open to new ideas/ways of thinking.
  • Qualifications related to the job.

The top three contributions that employers would like to see from higher education to improve graduates' intercultural skills:

  • Teach communication skills.
  • Encourage/require foreign languages.
  • Encourage/require studies overseas.
British Council, London (2013).

Retrieved from:
Culture Work Intercultural Skills Workplace

Falling short? CollegeLearning and career success. Selected Findings from Online Surveys of Employers and College Students While this report is not focused on study abroad per se, it is important data that provides the context of what employers seek, value, and expect in today's graduates.

This report indicates that U.S. employers do not rate study abroad highly in seeking job candidates. Yet when asked what skills are important, they point to a number of transferable skills that are often reported are the result of an international experience.

Key findings:
A sampling of employers responding that they would be much more likely to consider [hiring a candidate] when asked: How much more likely is your company to consider hiring a recent college graduate if they have had this experience, or completed this course?:

  • 60% - An internship/ apprenticeship with company/organization
  • 39%% - A senior thesis/project demonstrating knowledge, research, problem-sovling communication skills
  • 24% - Research project done collaboratively with peers
  • 21% - Service-learning project with communication organization.
  • 13% - Study Abroad
  • And, here is the percentage of employers who rated the importance of each of these skills:
    85% - The ability to effectively communication orally (highest rating).
    83% - The ability to work effectively with others in teams.
    80% - The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings.
    70% - The ability to analyze and solve complex problems.
    56% - The ability to analyze and solve problems with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
    23% = Awareness of and experience with cultures and societies outside of the U.S.

Hart Research Associates. (2015). Conducted on Behalf of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Washington, DC.

Retrieved from:
2015 Employer Student Survey

QS Global Employer Survey Report 2011: How Employers Value an International Study Experience Contains survey data on how employers regard study abroad: by region/country, attribute, industry and job level.

Key findings: A sampling of results by country of the percentages of employers responding yes to this question: Do you actively seek or attribute value to an international study experience when recruiting?
89% Spain
82% - Egypt
73% - Japan
59% - Ireland
54% - United States
53% - Mexico
42% - United Kingdom
24% - South Africa
Weighted global average: 40%

The industries most seeking international experience were Energy (71%), Travel, Leisure and Hospitality (64%), Electronics and High Technology (64%), Consulting & Professional Services (63%), and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (63%).

Molony, J., Sowter, B., & Potts, D. (2011).

Retrieved from:
QS Global Employer Survey

Higher Education Internationalization: Study Abroad & Employability
Internationalization and employability: the role of intercultural experiences in the development of transferable skills.
  • This article describes how the skills that define intercultural competence align with the (more general) transferable skills that employers seek.
  • Explains how international experience links to employability and examines employability as an objective of higher education internationalization.
  • This article would be helpful for those working on mission/vision statement or establishing student learning outcomes for education abroad.
Jones, E. (2013). Public Money & Management, 33(2), 95104.

Retrieved from:

Study abroad's new focus is job skills. This article offers an example of how a collaborative campus-based program was designed and implemented to help students articulate their skills. Key findings:
  • How to combat misperceptions of study abroad by educating both employers and students
  • Ideas for collaborating with career services on programming for study abroad students
  • Since employers do not always understand the outcomes of learning abroad, it addresses the need to help students talk about their skills in ways that employers will appreciate.
Fischer, K. (2010, October 17). Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. A1 A21.

Retrieved from:

Employers Attitudes Towards Study Abroad This important article from the Frontiers journal in 2007 set forth three recommendations for the field of education abroad:
  1. Develop study abroad programs that build desired skills (e.g., teamwork).
  2. Carry out research on student learning abroad in order to collect data that will help convince employers that specific types of study abroad do in fact provide students with opportunities to develop or enhance desired learning outcomes.
  3. Give students training in how to present what they have learned in ways that employers will appreciate.
Trooboff, S., Vande Berg, M., & Rayman, J. (2007). Employer attitudes toward study abroad. Journal of Study Abroad, 15, 1733.



Frontiers Employer Attitudes Towards Study Abroad

Career integration: Reviewing the impact of experience abroad on employment. The proceedings of conference sessions from the Career Integration conference (co- sponsored by the University of Minnesota and CAPA) in 2016 are captured here:

Another set of articles from the 2014 conference is also available:

2017 Career Integration
Career Intergration Booklet
Global Career Compass: Leveraging Education Abroad for Student Development and Employability Martin Tillman blogs on the topic of study abroad and employability, providing a great compilation of recent research, compelling articles, and editorials. Global Career Compass
The Professional Value of ERASMUS Mobility A comprehensive report that offers information on Erasmus student outcomes. Includes reporting on the impact of studying abroad with regard to work: attaining a position, knowledge, attitude, work style and competencies. Bracht, O., Engel, C., Janson, K., Over, A., & Schomburg, H., International Centre for Higher Education Research (INCHER-Kassel), University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany (2006).
ERASMUS Professionals
The Erasmus Impact Study: Effects of mobility on the skills and employability of students and the internationalisation of higher education institutions. This study involved students, employers and universities with nearly 80,000 total surveyed. In summary:
  • Students are increasingly seeking to enhance their employability by studying abroad.
  • The same skills reported by students returning from abroad are key skills that employers value.
  • Erasmus students are in a better position when seeking their first job upon graduation, and are more open to living and working abroad.
European Commission (2014). Luxembourg.
The Global Mind MonitorThis instrument was developed at Dutch universities to measure how international competences contribute to the employability of students in an international context; and investigate the international competencies of graduates in relation to an (international) career.Centre for International Relationship Management Zuyd University. (2017).
Global Mind Monitor
Higher education and the employability agendaThe authors point to the massification of higher education in the second half of the 20 th Century as an important reason for securing employability as one of its objectives. Student mobility with transferable skills as outcomes -- - contributes to the broad objective of higher education.

Find out more in this chapter about the dialogue and both the mismatch and alignment -- between higher education, employability and employer expectations.

Matherly, C., & Tillman, M. (2015). . In M. Huisman, J., de Boer, H., Dill, D. Souto-Otero (Ed.), The palgrave international handbook of higher education policy and governance. London: Palgrave McMillan.
Hidden CompetencesThis report points to the fact that
1) students speak about having developed skills as the result of an international experience;
2) employers don't necessarily recognize the benefits of an international experience and so need help in understanding them; and that
3) students need coaching to talk about the experience in the context of their transferable skills.

The website offers a guided reflection for students, scroll down this page to find toolkit and materials for advisors and trainers:

Center for International Mobility (CIMO), 2014. Helsinki, Finland.

Retrieved from:
Faktaa 2014 Hidde n Competences - Hidden Competences

Future Work Skills 2020The Automation Age is going to drive significant changes in the Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2016). Palo Alto, CA. workplace with a significant percentage of current positions being eliminated or transformed within the next 25 years.

This overviews (new) skills that are likely to be/become important and valued in the near future:
1. Sense-Making
2. Social Intelligence
3. Novel & Adaptive Thinking
4. Cross-Cultural Competency
5. Computational Thinking
6. New-Media Literacy
7. Transdisciplinarity
8. Design Mindset
9. Cognitive Load Management
10. Virtual Collaboration
**See the actual report (pdf) for narratives on the meaning of each of these.

Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2016). Palo Alto, CA.

UPRI Future Work Skills

Going Global: Are graduates prepared for a global workforce?An overview (with survey data) on the regard for an international experience among employers and college graduates, but includes discussion on the shared responsibility higher education and industry about graduate employability.

Key Findings:

  • Half of the graduates surveyed feel that they failed to recognize the value of international experience during their studies; it wasn't until after graduation, when its full value became clearer.
  • Respondents who had studied or interned abroad were twice as likely to be employed within six months of graduation than those who did not have the same opportunities.
  • Globally, the survey found that 69% of graduates had the chance to study overseas as students, 62% had access to foreign language courses and 55% to international cultural exchanges. But only 34% of those with access to international experience actually pursued it.

Kaplan, Inc. in collaboration with The Economist Intelligence Unit
Going Global EIU Kaplan Whitepaper
How study abroad shapes global careers: evidence from the United State.U.S. students report on how their study abroad experience impacted their first job/s and career path, and the ways in which they were able to apply their skills in the workplace.Norris, E., & Gillespie, J. (2008). Journal of Studies in International Education.

Retrieved from:
JSIE How SA Shapes Global Careers (Norris, Gillespie)

Exploring the perceptions of the early career value of study abroad for bachelor degree graduates of Australian universities.This dissertation examines how Australian students describe the value of having studied abroad with regard to their initial career choices, their employability and the impact over time.

Key Findings:
Percentage of students who reported these benefits from studying abroad:
94% - General personal and developmental benefits
69% - Career direction
66% - Obtaining first job
63% - Long-term career prospects

Potts, D. (2014). Michigan State University.

Retrieved from:
Gradworks UMI

Examples of Career-Related Campus-based Programming
University of South DakotaPost-Return programming focused on employability was implemented as a collaboration of the study abroad and career services offices:
  • A career advisor attends a re-entry workshop to facilitate a discussion of transferable skills that helps students to articulate what they learned while abroad.
  • In the workshop, students complete a resume content exercise to develop action-oriented sentences that communicate their learning.
  • Students also develop elevator speeches for three distinct situations (job interview, graduate school application, family get-together) and then practice them with a partner.

This module is part of a larger re-entry workshop in which students share their experience with staff and peers through photos and reflection questions.

University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)The Office of Study Abroad and the Center for Career Development at the University of St. Thomas collaborate in a number of ways to provide career integration support to both students and faculty directors:
  • Offering a pre-decision session in conjunction with the study abroad fair to encourage students to consider their career goals when deciding on a study abroad program.
  • Offering a session at pre-departure orientation for all students to become aware of and better understand the opportunity for skill development while abroad.
  • Including career integration strategies in faculty director pre-departure training, including a number of activities that faculty can conduct with students on-site to help them consider the experience from a career perspective.
  • Holding sessions for returnees on ?Marketing Your International Experience? (part of the required meetings for our own semester programs; optional for other students)
  • Holding informal monthly lunches for staff from both offices to share expertise, discuss recent research, develop joint marketing strategies, and ensure that we share a common message.
Michigan State University Michigan State University offers re-entry Unpacking Your Education Abroad Experiences programming, in collaboration with the Career Services Network, the Office for Education Abroad, and a student organization called Spartans Abroad Global Ambassadors.
  • The Unpacking series outlines the concepts of meaningful personal reflection, the employer perspective of education abroad, and skills developed on education abroad experiences and the employer view of those skills
  • Students attending Unpacking programs participate in small group reflections, and observe an ?unpacking session? between a student and a career professional
  • Students leave better able to connect the skills developed abroad to the skills important in career contexts
Chapman University
  • Chapman University provides professional and career development for students before study abroad and when students return.
  • The Center for Global Education partners with the career service offices on to facilitate the ?Branding your International Experience Workshop? for students when they return from studying abroad. Students have an opportunity to reflect on challenges and learning moments while abroad to develop ?STAR? examples and an elevator pitch in job interviews.
  • Due to the success of the program for returned students, a pre-departure workshop called ?Design your International Experience? was developed. Students set goals for themselves to develop professionally while abroad and think about what they can do to get involved and maximize their experience abroad and work through challenges to help them professionally into the future.
  • Both workshops are listed on the Study Abroad Budget Worksheet as ?Included? in the program cost, so that they know it is part of the study abroad experience -- and provides key advertising for the workshop. Information about professional development in studying abroad is also included in the Pre-Departure Handbooks.
  • In campus presentations to students, faculty, staff, and parents, Chapman staff include career development and job placement statistics including data from the IIE paper, ?Gaining an Employment Edge? so that the connection is made between career development, transferable skills, and study abroad.
Elon University
  • Elon has a full-time position, Assistant Director for Global Student Engagement, shared 50/50 between the Global Education Center and the Student Professional Development Center. This staff member?s office is in the Global Education Center and she advises local students on internship and work opportunities abroad and also advising international students on work opportunities in the USA.
  • Two courses are offered for students after they return from study abroad. One is a full semester course focused on reflection and cultural learning. In some of the classes the students have written and published a book - #Cultured ? A Guide for Study Abroad for students by students. A second course is one-credit and is focused on leveraging a study abroad experience to support professional development.
  • The Elon Job Network (EJN) has a section featuring opportunities abroad which is supported by Elon?s Student Professional Development Center.
  • Elon offers a Peace Corps Prep program found at Elon- Peace Corps
  • Elon?s National and International Fellowships office (Elon- National and International Fellowship) supports students hoping to compete for a Fulbright, Goldwater, Truman or other highly competitive fellowship.
  • Elon offers an optional pre-departure forum for both short-term and semester students entitled ?Think Forward: Applying Study Abroad to Your Professional Development?
  • Elon offers several programs abroad with credit-bearing internship opportunities that satisfy degree requirements.
Babson CollegeBabson includes a focus on skill development in both its pre-departure and post-return programming for student. Online modules are being developed to replace the in- person sessions.

In an effort to better understand why 50% of Babson College students chose not to study abroad, Babson began conducting an annual survey with graduating seniors. Trends over the past three years demonstrate students' concern for missing out on job or internship opportunities. Thus, the Glavin Office of Multicultural & International Education collaborated with the Center for Career Development to compare employability data, 6 months post-graduation, for those students who studied abroad verses those who did not. With the 2015 data, a Myths & Realities campaign was launched that highlighted the following:

  • 96% of graduates who studied abroad were employed verses 92% for those who did not study abroad
  • The median salary for those who studied abroad was $55,000 verse $54,000 for those who did not study abroad
  • 90% of those who studied abroad did an internship while at Babson College verses only 81% for those who did not study abroad

More information:
- page 64 - 2017 Career Integration No.2