While many students choose a major such as nursing or accounting partially based on the idea that such professions always need new employees, education is actually Florida Gulf Coast University’s undergraduate major with the highest success rate of students who find a job after graduation.
By December 2011, 89 percent of the class of 2011 graduates from the early childhood education and teaching program of the College of Education had found a job. While only 67 percent of general education majors were employed within that time frame, elementary education and teaching and special education and teaching both yielded high percentages of employed graduates at 86, and 80 percent, respectively.
This information comes as no surprise to Sherree Houston, associate dean of the College of Education. “I’ve not heard of any student not getting a job if they wanted one,” Houston said.
The high success rate is the result of the college’s unique way of scheduling classes, the hands-on experience students receive within the five-county area, and the close relationship between faculty and students.
The University of North Florida has a student population similar to FGCU’s, and the UNF College of Education has similar success rates. While UNF’s early childhood education and teaching degree yielded a percent five points higher than that of FGCU, FGCU majors such as elementary education and teaching and special education and teaching beat out those of UNF.
The difference is in the scheduling. Houston describes other universities as having “Chinese menu classes.” By this, she means that many universities hand out a list of required classes for students to take at any point in their curriculum, with no indication of which classes should be taken as building blocks for others.
The FGCU College of Education employs block schedules, meaning specific classes are to be taken concurrently, and during specific semesters.
According to Houston, “The design of the program is based on how people learn each class builds and builds and builds.”
Another helpful facet of the education program is the real teaching experience the students face. The first two required classes of an education major, Introduction to Education and Diversity in Education, involve observation in real classrooms. Right from the start, students are learning in the places where they may one day start a career.
In fact, Houston says that the majority of education graduates stay in the five county area – Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee – often hired by principals who observed their internships in nearby schools.
Students may also participate in out-of-state conferences. For example, senior education major Mikaela Roach is currently presenting at a National Social Science Association conference in New Orleans with fellow student Nicole Mitchell and their professor, Dr. Penny Finley.
“This is a great professional development opportunity for us,” said Roach about the conference. “We have also learned, from watching other presentations at this conference, that our program at FGCU is ahead of the game, especially on teaching with technology.
Another component that Houston feels is a factor to student success in the College of Education is the professors. “I’ve heard from students that transfer in that they feel a direct involvement with the faculty and a real sense that they know you and connect with you.”
“All of the faculty teaching future teachers are involved in the local community and schools as well.”
One thing is certain, at least to Mikaela Roach. She said “I know I will be well-prepared once I graduate.”
While any number of these factors may be true for other colleges at FGCU, the numbers from the Florida Department of Education’s 2011 State University Report suggest that the College of Education is faring particularly well compared to its fellow colleges. Other high employment rates for majors include 82 percent for liberal studies, 81 percent for nursing, and 80 percent for both computer and information science and economics. Majors yielding lower employment percentages include 44 percent for civil engineering, 47 percent for biology, and 56 percent for psychology.