Undergrads desire for Google grows; Ernst & Young makes big jump; work-life balance and job security are top concerns.

Ideal employer survey yields surprising career preferences of US undergraduate students

Nearly one in five undergraduate students chose Google (17.1 percent) as their ideal employer, the popularity of the leading search engine grew as only 13 percent of undergraduate students chose it as ideal in 2007.

Walt Disney (13 percent) comes in again at a close second followed by Apple Computer (10 percent), and Ernst & Young which jumped eight positions since 2007 to be No. 4, edging out the US Department of State (9 percent). Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, Peace Corps, NASA, and PricewaterhouseCoopers completed the top 10 list.

This year, 43,313 students from 195 colleges and universities participated in the Undergraduate Edition of the Universum Ideal Employer Survey, making it the largest survey of its kind in the US. In it, students answered questions about their career expectations such as top industries, career goals, communication preferences, salary expectations, ideal employers and more.

The career goals of undergraduate respondents directly reflect attitudes about work and current economic and social events. An overwhelming 64 percent of students feel that a work-life balance is the most important career goal, job security and stability (45 percent) came second. Third on the list is being dedicated to a cause or to feel they are serving a greater good (44 percent) followed by being competitively or intellectually challenged (39 percent), and to be a leader or manager of people (33 percent).

"These savvy undergrads are thinking much more strategically than ever seen before," says Claudia Tattanelli, CEO of Universum USA. "They have seen massive layoffs first hand and are now looking beyond their top three companies to find more stable career choices that are inline with their career goals. In addition, they want to feel as though a work-life balance is achievable without letting it get in the way of their work. They ultimately want to work smarter not harder."

Working in an organization like the US Department of State allows undergraduate students to achieve top career goals like giving back to the community and their financial goals which is why government/public service remains the No. 1 industry. Healthcare came in second followed by accounting (public), education/teaching, and marketing/advertising.

This year, undergraduate students are expecting, on average, $50,640 one year after graduation, and $96,438 after five years.

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