This article is published in the February 2023 issue.

Undergraduate and Graduate Students Report on Career Values

The highest-rated aspects of a career for undergraduate students and graduate students.

Many factors influence how individuals make career-related decisions. What are some of the aspects of a career that are most important to undergraduate and graduate students? CERP summarized the results of the Fall 2021 Data Buddies Survey (DBS) for Undergraduates and Graduates to understand how these two groups report their personal career values. A total of 9,428 undergraduate students and 2,690 graduate students provided responses to survey questions about career values. CERP averaged respondents’ ratings and pulled the five items with the highest average for each student type.

Overall, undergraduate and graduate students indicated that they consider it important that their career allows them to spend a lot of time with their family and friends, have a flexible work schedule, and help others. Each student group also demonstrated unique career values: undergraduates indicated they viewed making a lot of money and building a strong professional network as important to their career, while graduate students indicated it was important to work collaboratively and have a social impact.

While individual factors and circumstances may influence the degree to which someone considers a given item important to their career, these results can provide a useful window to understand students’ general motivations. Individuals who regularly engage with students such as mentors, advisors, or lecturers may consider these differences in student groups when providing advice or perspectives.


  • Survey respondents were presented with the prompt: “How important to you is it that your career allows you to do each of the following?” and were asked to provide their answer on a scale of Not important – Extremely important for the items “Make a lot of money”, “Work independently”, “Work collaboratively”, “Spend a lot of time with my family and friends”, “Have a social impact”, “Be a role model”, “Become well-known in my field”, “Help others”, and “Build a strong professional network”

horizontal CERP logoThis analysis is brought to you by the CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP). CERP provides social science research and comparative evaluation for the computing community. Subscribe to the CERP newsletter here. Check out CERP’s activities and find out how to engage on CERP’s website.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number (DUE 1821136). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.