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Continuing Education and Career Services: A Natural Partnership

The EvoLLLution | Continuing Education and Career Services: A Natural Partnership
At UC Irvine, they are forging a new model for career services by integrating it tightly into the operations of the Continuing Education division.
In October 2017 the University of California, Irvine (UCI) increased its institutional-wide effort to provide students with more robust and comprehensive career services. Like many universities around the country, UCI recognized that the overwhelming majority of students, and their parents, expect their university degrees to lead to a meaningful and rewarding career.

Understanding the demands of students and parents, regional accrediting bodies created a set of requirements that universities must use to establish measurable desired outcomes for all degrees. And importantly, these outcomes are measured in part by what happens to students after graduation.

Scientific evidence indicates that students who establish their career goals while still in college, irrespective of whether they enter that career, are more successful—1) they graduate earlier, 2) have better grades, 3) are retained in larger numbers, and 4) are more satisfied with their education. While most studies are focused on undergraduate students, anecdotal evidence suggests that the same is true for graduate students, including those in humanities and postdoctoral programs.

Based on these trends, UCI has raised the visibility and stature of career services on its campus by renaming its Career Services Center to the Division of Career Pathways. Most importantly, UCI went above and beyond, executing a far more unique vision than other universities, by appointing a Vice Provost of the Division of Career Pathways (DCP) who also serves as the Dean of the Division of Continuing Education (DCE). This innovative strategy increased UCI’s significant commitment to, and investment in, its students’ career success and also aligned it with its land grant mission to provide continuing and lifelong education.

This unconventional combination of roles and campus divisions is multidimensional.

  1. The two divisions are both clearly focused on student performance and achievement after graduation. While the target audience of the two divisions are different, the matriculated student intentions are similar to the CE student—advancing career goals.
  2. UCI’s career services offer courses and workshops that are similar to many of its CE courses, such as resume writing, workplace skills, and presentation techniques. And consistent with CE in many large institutions, career services courses and programs are (or should be) taught online.
  3. In most cases, and particularly in large public universities, funding for career services for matriculated students ends upon graduation—which is exactly the time they really need career support. CE units are generally self-funding. By partnering CE with career services and Alumni Associations, the funding model can be changed.
  4. CE units generally have natural and ongoing relationships with local and regional employers—relationships that can easily be extended to matriculated students who can benefit from internships and other meaningful interactions with employers.
  5. Many of the administrative and management capabilities of CE units can be applied to career services including marketing (to students and employers), event management (for employer fairs and workshops) and business and contract services.

UCI’s objective is for the two units, DCP and DCE, to remain separate but highly integrated, mutually supportive, and cooperative for the benefit of all students and alumni. UCI’s model might may not fit every organizational situation, but should be considered by institutions wishing to elevate career services and signal a change from the status quo.

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Gallup and Lumina Foundation (2016). Great Jobs. Great Lives. The Value of Career Services, Inclusive Experiences and Mentorship for College Students. 2016 Gallup-Purdue Index Report. Retrieved from:

Sung, Anne Wanjiku. (2015). Career Development Among College Students: Determining the Influence of Career Services on Student Persistence to Graduation. Louisiana State University Doctoral Dissertation. Retrieved from:

Bryant, J. and Bodfish, S. (2014). The Relationship of Student Satisfaction to Key Indicators for Colleges and Universities. Noel-Levitz, Inc. 2014 National Research Report. Retrieved from:

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