Graduates from CT colleges, universities tend to get jobs close to school, data shows

Photo of Amy Coval

When Doug Wardlaw was a senior in high school weighing where to go to college, one thing he said he did not know is how much the decision would drive where he ended up finding a job after graduation.

Wardlaw, 23, is now a UConn alum and works in finance in New York City. Originally from New Haven, Wardlaw went to the day prep school, Hopkins School, for high school. His senior year, he juggled offers from various colleges wanting him to play football for their programs. After attending Union College for a year, he transferred to UConn. 

As an economics major and data analytics minor, Wardlaw said that he had always thought New York would be the best place to go for his career. However, there were reasons beyond finance that made it easy to accept New York as his new home.

"It was kind of like the perfect storm of being around people I knew, being close to home — [just] a train ride away — but also being far enough where I can begin this new chapter of my life but not be [all the way] in California," Wardlaw said.

And it seems most grads from the Nutmeg State feel similarly in terms of moving far from their college roots. In fact, most alumni from Connecticut colleges and universities stick around and find jobs in the New England area, data shows.

CT Insider analyzed data from the U.S. Census’ Post Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) survey to see where graduates from participating schools were employed one year out of school.

Connecticut's 15 participating institutions are Albertus Magnus College, Central Connecticut State University, Charter Oak State College, Connecticut College, Eastern Connecticut State University, Goodwin University, Mitchell College, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, Southern Connecticut State University, University of Connecticut, University of Hartford, University of New Haven, University of Saint Joseph and Western Connecticut State University.

The analysis looks at a three-year cohort of graduates from 4-year undergraduate institutions between 2016 to 2018 to see what census regions they ended up in. "Employment" is counted if graduates have a full-time job one year after college.

Out of the over 37,000 college graduates included in the data, 73% of them ended up in the New England region, which includes states like Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, and is home to big cities like Boston, Providence, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and more. 

Apart from the New England region, the next most popular areas for Connecticut graduates to move were the Middle Atlantic region (N.Y., N.J., Pa.), the South Atlantic region (Del., Fla., Ga., Md., N.C, S.C, Va., W.Va.) and the Pacific region (Calif., Ore., Wash.) respectively.

Although UConn had the greatest number of graduates stay in New England (over 8,600), Eastern Connecticut State had the highest percentage of their graduates from 2016 -2018 stay in the region, over 89 percent, while UConn had just over 77 percent of their graduates stay in New England. 

Mitchell University in New London had the most variation in where its alumni ended up employed, with only 25 percent staying in New England. The university had the highest percentage of its graduates in five of the nine regions compared to the other Connecticut schools.

Data from these schools also showed that most students do not stray too far from their hometowns when choosing where to go to college. UConn reported that 77 percent of their undergraduate students were Connecticut residents and Central Connecticut State University reported 96 percent of their undergraduates were from Connecticut. Eastern Connecticut State University — which had the highest percentage of graduates employed in New England after graduating — reported that 90 percent of their undergraduates were from the Nutmeg State.

For Wardlaw, the decision to move to New York as a product of his industry and being a UConn alum was easy, saying that his degree and career path more than anything really drove it home. However, had he chosen a different path, he is not sure the story would be the same.

“If I were to not do finance, I think it would have been a little more difficult because jobs are all over the place, and the job market, especially [in 2021], was difficult,” Wardlaw said. “I would have had to go somewhere where I could work.”

However, Wardlaw was not sure that UConn would have had the resources to support his job search if he had wanted to move across the country. He said that he feels like the alumni network is concentrated in the college’s regional area more than anywhere else.

“Say you wanted to get a job on the west coast or somewhere far, it definitely would have been more difficult,'' Wardlaw said. “But if you want to do something in the Northeast, even as far as D.C., I think there is a wide enough alumni network to get that job."

Wardlaw did note that UConn provided general job search resources like the Handshake website, the UConn Career Center and multiple career fairs on campus for students to connect with companies and recruiters. For graduates from 2016-2018, UConn's own outcomes data reported an average of over 65 percent of graduates employed in Connecticut and an average of over 15 percent of graduates employed in New York after six months. Additionally, companies that repeatedly appeared as top employers for UConn students — Pratt & Whitney, Aetna, Hartford Hospital and more — all are headquartered in Connecticut. 

Even though Wardlaw said going to UConn was a big factor in where he ended up employed, he said that most people he knew from college are not with him in Manhattan, but he does know a lot of people in New York from Hopkins.

“I feel like a lot of people that go to UConn work in Boston or do something in Hartford, because a lot of insurance companies are there,” Wardlaw said “….I have found a lot of [my] friends who went to Ivy League schools and NESCAC schools predominantly, they end up in New York, more so than students from UConn."

Wardlaw said that his main goal was simply to go to a good school, and those other considerations did not matter as much to him back then. 

“I guess hindsight is 20-20,” Wardlaw laughed.