First Destination Survey reports bright futures for the Class of 2020

photo of class of 2020 spelling CWRU

In April 2020, just one month into the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of Case Western Reserve University’s Class of 2020 were invited to share their postgraduate plans through the annual First Destination Survey.

“The Class of 2020 had the unenviable distinction of graduating into a global pandemic unlike anything we or they have ever seen,” said Drew Poppleton, director of Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education. “The ground upon graduation couldn’t have been shakier or the outlook more uncertain. And yet, to look at these results—what this class has achieved—you’d never know these were the circumstances under which they launched their post-graduate plans.”

The results, as Poppleton explained, are indeed something to be celebrated. Of graduates in the Class of 2020, 49% are employed full time and 43% are continuing their education in graduate or professional school. This marks the fourth consecutive year that more members of the graduating class chose to enter the workplace than pursue advanced degrees, though the margin between those primary plans is tighter than last year (6% compared to 17% in 2019).

Of note, only 4% of the undergraduate class reported being available for employment—the lowest percentage ever recorded since the annual survey began in 2004. “This figure speaks not only to the resiliency and determination of our students, but also to the quality and durability of a CWRU education,” Poppleton added.

Collected by the Office of Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education, information in the First Destination Survey report reflects the outcomes for 84% of 1,143 graduates. Data was collected through surveys sent to members of the Class of 2020, posts on social media and conversations with faculty and staff.

The results of the First Destination Survey are available in a series of PDFs online. In addition, Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education and Institutional Research developed a way to allow individuals to search, compare and sort data from the past five years using Tableau.


Case Western Reserve graduates launched their careers in diverse industries and the highest numbers entered the fields of engineering (37%), research (11%), nursing (10%), financial services (8%) and consulting (6%).

Ohio (177) remained the most popular destination for graduates beginning their careers, followed in significant numbers by California (28), New York (27), Illinois (21), Massachusetts (18), Maryland (15), and Washington (15). Texas and Pennsylvania drew 11 graduates each, while 15 graduates started their careers abroad. 

In these sought-after job markets, graduates found positions with top firms, several of which hired five or more members of the Class of 2020:

  • Accenture
  • Amazon 
  • AmeriCorps 
  • Case Western Reserve University 
  • City Year 
  • Cleveland Clinic 
  • Epic 
  • General Motors 
  • KeyBank 
  • Microsoft 
  • National Institutes of Health 
  • Sherwin-Williams 
  • Teach for America 
  • University Hospitals

Graduates reported a median starting salary range of $65,999-$69,999, consistent with last year and another encouraging sign of graduates finding success in the job market. By college, median salaries were:

  • Case School of Engineering: $70,000-$74,999, no change from last year
  • College of Arts and Sciences: $40,000-$44,999, a $5,000 decrease from last year
  • Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing: $50,000-54,999, no change from last year
  • Weatherhead School of Management: $60,000-64,999, a $5,000 increase from last year

Advanced Education

Case Western Reserve graduates pursuing advanced degrees chose from impressive institutions:

  • Boston University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • George Washington University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Southern California
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Yale University

Some graduates also opted to remain at Case Western Reserve to work toward another degree.

For those graduates pursuing an advanced degree, master’s degree programs were the most popular (56%), followed by MD/DO (16%), PhD (15%), JD (3%) DDS/DMD (2%) and other programs (8%).

Experiential Education

Hands-on learning—in the form of research, creative endeavors, internships, co-ops, study abroad, community service and more—is an essential component of the Case Western Reserve undergraduate experience. Experiential education offers students real-world experiences and preparation for what comes next. 

Of graduates who responded to survey questions about experiential education, 99% said they participated in at least one activity, with:

  • 86% in research or creative endeavors;
  • 69% working at an internship;
  • 64% participating in community service; and
  • 35% completing a study abroad program.

Compared with the Class of 2019, participation in specific forms of experiential education increased across the board with participation in community service having the highest increase at 17%.

“At CCEL, we’re very excited to see this increased participation,” said Betsy Banks, director of the Center for Civic Engagement & Learning (CCEL). “Community service is such a valuable form of experiential learning because it enables students to gain and contribute skills while building relationships, deepen their understanding, and develop a sense of civic responsibility to positively impact their communities well into the future.”

Read more about the steps chosen by the Class of 2020 as they entered the next phases of their lives.