Economic Security Tops Class of 2024 Wish List

June 10, 2024 | By Mary Gatta and Mimi Collins

Student Attitudes
A group of college students.

TAGS: nace insights, student attitudes, surveys, trends and predictions,

Graduating seniors are very clear about what they are looking for in a job: economic security.

For the nearly 2,300 bachelor’s degree level graduates taking part in NACE’s annual student survey, economic security is defined as job stability, annual salary increases, and a good benefits package—featuring a company-matched 401k and employer-paid health insurance. These were the top attributes they cited in their dream job. (See Figures 1 and 2.)

Underscoring the value they place on security: The majority (84%) reported that an affordable cost of living would be a key factor in their decision to relocate for a job. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 1Figure 2

Wanted: A Healthy Workplace Culture, Plus Inclusivity

Responding seniors were split about where they would like to work—slightly more than half (51%) want to work exclusively in-person, while 43% prefer a hybrid work environment. (Just 6% want to work exclusively in a virtual environment.)

Although they may not agree on their preferred physical work environment, they do agree on the atmosphere: More than three-quarters of responding seniors said they are looking for employers that promote a healthy workplace culture. This includes friendly co-workers, cited by three-quarters as important. (See Figure 1.)

An inclusive organization is also important to new graduates. Asked about salary transparency, which underpins equity among employees, more than four out of five (83.4%) want employers to be transparent about pay and benefits, and 66% want the organization to provide the salary range when posting a job. They also favor organizations that support their ability to integrate work and family responsibilities. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3Figure 4

NACE’s 2024 Student Survey, sponsored by Indeed, was conducted March 13 through May 15, 2024; a total of 20,482 college students took part, including 2,281 graduating seniors earning bachelor’s degrees. A report and dashboard featuring results for the Class of 2024 will be available in the fall.

Mary Gatta, Ph.D., is the director of research and public policy for NACE. Dr. Gatta has more than 20 years of teaching, research, and advocacy experience at colleges and in nonprofit organizations where she worked on issues of career education and workforce development.

Dr. Gatta’s work is centered on evidence-based research analysis to develop new solutions to current problems—particularly around economic security, education, and workforce policies. In all her research projects, she uses an equity and intersectionality lens.

Prior to joining NACE, Dr. Gatta served as an associate professor of sociology at City University of New York-Guttman and faculty director of the Ethnographies of Work program. In addition, she was the research director at the Rutgers University Center for Women and Work and a senior scholar at Wider Opportunities for Women in Washington D.C. Dr. Gatta also served on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's Labor and Workforce Development Transition Team.

Dr. Gatta received her bachelor’s degree in social science from Providence College and her master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from Rutgers University.

She can be reached at

nace logo Mimi Collins is Director of Communications at the National Association of Colleges and Employers. She can be reached at