Skip to navigationSkip to content
NASA is an attractive employer
Reuters/Mike Brown
Must be able to lift heavy objects.
REACH FOR THE STARS

For many students, the most attractive employers aren’t companies

By Oliver Staley

Corporations are spending time and money recruiting young, idealistic college students by showing they care about social responsibility as much as profit. They still can’t compete with organizations that don’t care about profit at all.

US students across a wide swath of academic disciplines ranked governmental organizations like NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the United Nations as the most attractive employers, ahead of  corporate luminaries like Google, Apple, and Goldman Sachs. Other highly ranked organizations outside of business include the Mayo Clinic, the EPA, Doctors Without Borders, and the US State Department.

Universum, a Swedish firm that helps companies improve their image among prospective employees, surveyed 62,366 students at 352 universities. In three of five broad areas of study—engineering, natural science, and the humanities—students ranked a non-business employer at the top. In the other two areas, business and computer science, students ranked Google number one.

The results shouldn’t be overly surprising. Study after study says millennials and their successors, Generation Z, are motivated by non-monetary rewards, and are looking for employers that can offer fulfilling work. In Universum’s survey, 48% said “serving the greater goal” was an important career goal, behind only work/life balance (61%) and professional security (52%).

Businesses still dominate the rankings overall, of course, and the students’ choices may be more aspirational than anything (salary expectations may or may not have weighed in their choices). But when it comes to employers with a clear sense of mission, it’s hard to compete with the government.

Here, according to the Universum survey, are the 10 most attractive employers ranked by students in each area of studies:

Business

(20,879 students surveyed)

RankOrganizations
1Google
2Walt Disney
3Amazon
4Apple
5Nike
6JP Morgan
7EY
8Deloitte
9Goldman Sachs
10PwC

Engineering

(11,061 students surveyed)

RankOrganizations
1NASA
2Tesla
3SpaceX
4Google
5Boeing
6Lockheed Martin
7Apple
8Walt Disney
9General Electric
10Amazon

Computer science

(4,384 students surveyed)

Rank
1Google
2Microsoft
3Amazon
4Apple
5Facebook
6Nintendo
7Tesla
8SpaceX
9NASA
10Blizzard

Natural sciences

(12,125 students surveyed)

RankOrganizations
1NIH
2Mayo Clinic
3Doctors Without Borders
4Centers for Disease Control
5NASA
6EPA
7American Cancer Society
8Google
9FBI
10Peace Corps

Humanities, liberal arts, and education

(13,917 students surveyed)

Rank
1United Nations
2Walt Disney
3Google
4State Dept.
5FBI
6National Geographic
7Education Dept.
8CIA
9Netflix
10Peace Corps