How to Keep More College Grads in Boston? Better Jobs, Lifestyle

5/28/14Follow @gthuang

It’s a sad Boston tale told many times. Tech whiz kid moves to New England for college, attends Prestigious School X, and leaves the area for greener pastures—usually the West Coast—after graduating or dropping out to start a company.

The big outliers are well known—Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Drew Houston, for starters. But what kinds of job opportunities are keeping the more typical student population in Boston, or luring them away?

A recent survey of 394 juniors and seniors at 30-plus colleges in the Boston area sheds some light on the current nature of this brain drain. The study was done by Fluent, a Boston-based marketing agency that specializes in the college-millennial market.

First, here’s the breakdown of where the students lived before college (New England is well represented):

Where Boston college students are from (image: Fluent)

And here are the fields in which they plan to pursue careers after graduation (the survey is heavy on finance, marketing, and healthcare; less than 10 percent are looking for careers in tech):

Career fields of Boston-area college grads (image: Fluent)

Some key findings, which should be of interest to the innovation community:

—Roughly half the students (52 percent) said they had planned to stay in the Boston area after graduation when they first came to school here. By the time of the survey, that proportion had climbed to 59 percent.

—Of those who now plan to stay, the top two reasons are that they like living here (36 percent), and that the Boston area represents a good job/career market for them (27 percent).

—Of those who plan to leave, the top two reasons are that they want to try a different regional lifestyle (26 percent), and that the Boston area isn’t the right city/region for their career (15 percent).

—Yet, of those who are leaving, 31 percent say a higher-paying job offer (another 15 percent say “any job offer”) would have influenced them to stay. So this is the money chart for people wondering how to keep more talent in Boston:

What would keep more college grads in Boston? (image: Fluent)

—Meanwhile, 66 percent of respondents had at least one local internship during college; but 65 percent say this experience (or lack thereof) did not affect their choice to stay or leave.

—Interestingly, 71 percent of those surveyed said they anticipate doing some post-graduate work for their career. This reinforces a general sense that Boston is a grad-school town with a lot of academic talent and original thinkers; how that will translate to new businesses and entrepreneurship in the coming years remains to be seen.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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