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California Community College Student Outcomes Abroad Research Project


Data on Career Development

Data Linking Study Abroad with Career Development

How does studying abroad affect the career development of college students?

Norris & Gillespie (2000) present evidence from a survey of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) linking study abroad participation with global careers:

  • The study abroad experience enabled the majority of respondents to gain skills that influenced their career path, foreign language ability that they used at work, and interest in a career direction that they pursued. Likewise, of those who participated in an internship or field experience while abroad, the majority reported that the international work-related experience assisted them in their careers.
  • 48% reported working or volunteering in an international capacity at some point since college. Table 2 illustrates that the types of positions held represent a wide range of sectors, with the private and education sectors leading.
  • When compared with respondents who studied abroad in the 1950s and 1960s, alumni of IES programs offered in the 1990s were:
    • nearly two times as likely to have been influenced by their IES experience to get a job overseas
    • three times more likely to have worked for a multinational organization in the United States
    • twice as likely to have worked in private industry with an international component, and
    • ten times more likely to have participated in internships while studying abroad.
  • The 48% of IES alumni whose careers have a global dimension indicate a similar pattern in the long-term effect their education abroad experience had on them and in the decisions made regarding their study abroad experiences.
  • Alumni who worked in the international arena were nearly 3 times more likely to change career plans following study abroad than the alumni without global work experience. This suggests that global careers are not always planned before study abroad, but that the education abroad experience leads many participants to actively seek an international dimension to their paid and volunteer work. More than double the number of international-work alumni established relationships while studying abroad that became professional contacts.
  • An impressive 84% of alumni who worked internationally attested that their study abroad experience enabled them to acquire a skill set that influenced their career path.

In addition, Paige, Fry, Stallman, Josic, and Jon present data from the Study Abroad for Global Engagement (SAGE) project reinforcing the IES data:

  • The inquiry into the career decisions shows that 35.2 percent of the participants indicated that study abroad has helped their career to a large degree, while 39.9 percent indicated that study abroad has helped their career to some degree. Additionally, the careers of 37.7 percent of the entire sample currently are, or have been, internationally oriented.


  1. Gardner, P., Gross, L., & Steglitz, I. (2008). College Employment Research Institute Research Brief 1-2008.
  2. Norris, E. M., & Gillespie, J. (2009). How Study Abroad Shapes Global Careers: Evidence From the United States. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(3): 382-397.
  3. Paige, R. M., Fry, G. W., Stallman, E. M., Josic, J., & Jon, J-E. (2009). Study abroad for global engagement: the long-term impact of mobility experiences. Intercultural Education, S1-2: S29-44.
  4. Trooboff, S., Vande Berg, M., & Rayman J. (2007). Employer Attitudes toward Study Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 25(Fall/Winter): 17-33.