A new study released by the Institute of International Education’s Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact reveals positive impact for study abroad participants in the job market post-graduation. Participating in study abroad is known to increase global competence, including language skills and cultural literacy. However, there have previously been no measurable basis to determine what is needed to be globally competent and what should be taught in study abroad programs.
The study found that study abroad increased a number of skills, including cognition, curiosity, flexibility, adaptability, confidence, self-awareness, intercultural skills, interpersonal skills, communication, problem solving, language, tolerance, teamwork, leadership skills, and work ethic.
- Study abroad was seen to increase career possibilities due to interviewees having a broader understanding of career possibilities and more confidence to pursue them.
- The skills gained through study abroad had long-term impacts on progression and promotion. Interviewees answered that study-abroad helped contribute to a job offer, to skill development in jobs, and to be promoted to management-level positions where communication, interpersonal skills, and the ability to understand and work with others were important.
- Long periods of study abroad had a high impact on subsequent job offers and the development of skills, while short-term programs were effective in developing teamwork skills. This is possibly because short-term programs tend to be more structured and team-oriented than longer term programs, where independent study is more common.
- STEM majors highly value the gains made in skills outside of their majors during study abroad. Those in these fields said that study abroad programs were less diverse than regular programs, and that they were able to develop more “soft” skills that other programs in their fields lacked.
- Choosing a less familiar destination was positively associated with skill development and sense of career impact.
- Student intentionality and highly structured programs contribute to skill development.
The conclusion of the study states, “Across U.S. higher education, there is a strong emphasis on preparing U.S. students to secure jobs after graduation
in order to ensure their own economic prosperity and to contribute to the economic development of their communities, states, and the country as a whole. Study abroad provides a unique opportunity for students to gain work-related skills in a global context. This study has found that study abroad contributes to the development of transferrable skills and positive employment gains in different ways depending on program characteristics, study destinations, and the intentionality of students in leveraging study abroad experiences for employment. Most notably, the ability to understand differences between cultures and individuals emerged as a skill that contributes to individuals’ career progression. Within the context of today’s global economy, most students will move into jobs where they work for or do business with international companies, as well as work with diverse colleagues. Accordingly, the work-related skills gained through study abroad can be powerful tools for career success.”