The USA is home to the world’s largest economy. Because of this, the country has numerous opportunities for people to build careers. But with opportunity comes fierce competition, especially in the sectors that are powering economic growth. It is notoriously difficult for recent graduates to enter their desired industries. But some colleges can give their graduates a head start thanks to the relationships they’ve forged with organizations in booming sectors. The 30 colleges in this article are all prime examples.
Graduates need to ensure that the first job they secure after college is a high-quality position. Because there is a strong link between income and rapid, high-quality job placement. As CNBC states, “Students who have a desirable job lined up after college are more than twice as likely to be earning $60,000 a year than those graduates who took between two and 12 months.” This highlights why picking a college with solid connections to strong industries should be a major priority for any student.
Of course, almost every industry in the United States has had to adapt to coronavirus. In some ways, this makes finding a job after graduation harder than ever. But this article identifies some of the industries that are powering America’s economic recovery and 30 colleges in America with strong links to them. That means that the graduates of these colleges should be able to secure positions with ease, especially in a post-pandemic world.
Any one of the 30 colleges below is a strong choice for a student looking to enter into one of the industries that are driving America’s economy. However, it’s also possible that none of the colleges below are right for you. If that’s the case, this ranking can still be a vital resource in your college search. Each entry has a summary of how the college has formed strong connections with America’s top industries. These are included for you to compare and contrast with your college options. If any of the colleges you’re considering are forming connections with American industries like those below, that’s a strong sign that it’s a college worth attending.
In determining America’s top industries, we have referred to Investopedia’s October 2020 article, which selected the five strongest American industries based on data from the US government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and a range of experts.
We then sourced articles that highlighted which colleges had strong degrees/career prospects in the industries highlighted in the Investopedia article. These sources are as follows:
- Niche, 2021 Top Colleges for Health Professions
- Payscale, Best Value Colleges For Technology Careers
- CollegeChoice, Best Construction Management Degrees
- Niche, 2021 Best Colleges with Retail Management Degrees in America
- Universities.com, Best Manufacturing Engineering colleges in the U.S. 2021
After sourcing the top colleges from these sources, we conducted further research to discover how the colleges had formed such strong connections with America’s top industries. The final ranking has been selected with the following criteria:
- Evidence of the college forming partnerships with a range of organizations
- evidence of the college industry partnerships being successful
- evidence of the colleges seeking to further strengthen their connections with the industries
- evidence of the colleges forming innovative connections with the industries
30. University of Florida
The University of Florida Career Connections Center has been very active in building the college’s industry connections. For instance, in the 2019 to 2020 academic year, 57 employers held 128 events, which over 3,000 students attended. Some of this center’s current partners include:
- Fisher Investments
- Lockheed Martin
Also, in 2020, the Career Connections Center put together a new strategic plan to boost the career paths of its students. One of the core pillars of this plan is to increase industry engagement. Niche names the University of Florida the sixth-best college in America for health professions.
29. University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Industries have been drawn to the University of South Carolina partly due to its incredible facilities. For instance, it allows companies to use the Center for Applied Innovation and Advanced Analytics, the IdeaLabs: Wet Lab Space, and the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator. Some of the college’s current industry partners include:
- the South Carolina Research Authority
These partnerships are often highly successful. For instance, when Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems teamed up with the college, it grew its annual revenue to over $5 million. Niche considers the University of South Carolina the sixth-best college in America for retail management degrees.
28. University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, Minnesota
In late 2020, the University of St. Thomas announced a new department to help build industry connections and boost graduate employment. This department is named Alumni Engagement, Corporate Engagement, and Career Development. However, some areas of the college had already been championing strong industry connections. For example, the Opus College of Business runs a range of industry connection programs and has formed strong partnerships with U.S. Bank, UnitedHealth Group, and API, to name just three. Universities.com considers the University of St. Thomas the fifth-best college for manufacturing engineering degrees.
27. Syracuse University
Syracuse, New York
The industry partners at Syracuse University rely on the college “to provide continuing education, research, intellectual and facilities-related resources, and thought leadership.” In turn, the industries provide the college’s students and faculty members with a range of practical experiences. One specific area of the college that has grown a range of successful partnerships is The Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering. This department’s industry connections include the following:
- Lockheed Martin
- General Electric
- Critical Technologies, and more
Niche considers Syracuse University the fifth-best college in America for retail management.
26. University of Wisconsin, Stout
Collaboration with business is one of the University of Wisconsin-Stout’s three tenets. As a result, it has formed a wide range of industry partnerships, including with businesses such as:
- Spectrum Brands
- Lockheed Martin
- Thomson Reuters, and more.
In fact, the college has assisted over 1,000 companies to date. These connections translate into graduate careers thanks to the fact that over 750 employers attend the college’s career conferences. Universities.com considers the University of Wisconsin, Stout, the third-best college for manufacturing engineering degrees.
25. Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
The leading division for industry connections at Washington University in St. Louis is the McKelvey School of Engineering. It considers deep partnerships “essential to advancing the overall research and educational missions of the school.” Thanks to this approach, many of the companies that have partnered with the college have secured funding. One recent example is SentiAR, which recently raised $5.1 million to develop a holographic cardiac ablation guidance system. Niche considers Washington University in St. Louis to be the third-best college for health professions.
24. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Industrial collaboration has been a part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since its foundation. Today the college maintains relationships with over 800 companies. In 2019, industry-sponsored research totaled $180 million, which accounted for almost one-quarter of the college’s research expenditure. Some of the key drivers of industrial connections at the college are:
- the Industrial Liaison Program,
- the Technology Licensing Office
- MIT Sloan Executive Education.
Payscale states that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the third-best college for technology careers.
23. Stanford University
The University and Corporate Foundation Relations department of Stanford University runs dozens of industrial affiliate programs. These programs benefit society by improving the dialogue between industry and academia. Additionally, these programs are wide-ranging, covering everything from aeronautics to US-Asia technology management. Other departments in the college have built their industrial connections. For instance, the Energy Department runs the Natural Gas Initiative, the StorageX Initiative, and the Sustainable Finance Initiative to connect with businesses. Payscale considers Stanford University to be the second-best college for technology careers.
22. University of Arkansas
The economic development efforts of the University of Arkansas help “businesses from startup to conglomerate.” In 2019, the college opened a Startup Village, which initially offered six months of rent-free office space for new businesses. This helped the area become a vibrant space for launching successful businesses. Another department that boosts the college’s connections with leading industries is the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center. The Center helps businesses with:
- strategic planning
- financial management
- market research
- increasing sales
- raising capital, and more.
Niche names the University of Arkansas the seventh-best college for retail management degrees and the 86th-best college for health professions.
21. Bradley University
Universities.com names Bradley University the fourth-best college for manufacturing engineering. Niche names it the 92nd-best college for health professions. Bradley University’s strong ties with a range of industries are due in part to its Foster College of Business. In addition to its degree work, this department helps businesses with their leadership skills, strategies, and growth. In fact, just the department’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship has advised over 8,000 business clients to date. And students form an important part of this activity. In fact, 100% of the college’s students get at least two real-world experiences during their study.
20. Georgia Institute of Technology
Perhaps the Georgia Institute of Technology division has the most impressive industry connections in the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute. This institute’s current partners include:
- the US Air Force, and many more.
Other areas of the college have impressive industry connections. For instance, the GVU center has created collaborative research partnerships with:
- Turner Broadcasting, and many others.
Payscale considers Georgia Institute of Technology the 10th best college for technology careers. Universities.com names it the 61st best college for engineering degrees.
19. University of California, Berkeley
The driver of industry connections at the University of California, Berkeley is The Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances. This office has managed to raise over $1 billion in funding in industry-sponsored research to date. On top of this, it has also raised over $250 million in licensing revenue and commercialized over 730 products. The number of companies the office has served is over 1,300. Payscale considers the University of California, Berkeley, the fourth-best college for technology careers. Universities.com names the college the 62nd best for manufacturing engineering degrees.
18. University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Thanks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Office of Research & Economic Development, the college has grown links with key industries. The office does this via:
- proposal development
- sponsored program management
- intellectual property commercialization, and more.
The college also allows businesses to use a range of its facilities, including:
- the Center for Biotechnology
- the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center
- the Food Processing Center
- the Greenhouse Innovation Center
- the Holland Computing Center, and more.
Niche considers the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, to be the ninth-best college for retail management degrees. Universities.com considers it to be the 52nd-best college for manufacturing degrees.
17. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan
In the last decade, the corporate research awards at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, have increased 321%. This is thanks largely to the work of the Business Engagement Center. And 2020 was a strong year for this center, despite the coronavirus. For instance, corporations invested $144.2 million and participated in 1049 visits to the college in 2020 alone. 2021 is also shaping up to be a strong year for the college’s business connections. In March, for example, Ford and the college announced a new world-class robotics complex. Payscale considers the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the 47th best college for technology careers. Universities.com names it the ninth-best college for manufacturing engineering degrees.
16. Savannah College of Art and Design
Over 50 industry-sponsored projects occur every year at Savannah College of Art and Design. The industry sponsors of these projects include:
- Adult Swim
- Fox Sports
- NASA, and many more impressive leading industry organizations.
The primary center for this collaboration is SCADpro, which is the college’s innovation studio. Its mission is to connect “current and future creative business leaders to discover what’s next.” Savannah College of Art and Design is the eighth-best college for manufacturing degrees, according to Universities.com, and the 46th-best college for retail management degrees, according to Niche.
15. University of Kentucky
Several centers at the University of Kentucky have strengthened the college’s connections with leading American industries. For instance, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science has conducted extensive levels of community engagement with local health-related organizations. And the Office of Technology Commercialization is a hub of company collaboration. One of this department’s many collaborative success stories includes helping an alumnus and employee of the college’s children’s hospital create an invention, Kangaroo Keeper, that makes it easier for parents to touch their intubated babies. Universities.com names the University of Kentucky the sixth-best college for manufacturing degrees. Niche names the college the 43rd best for health professions.
14. Harvey Mudd College
For over 50 years, Harvey Mudd College has been able to grow strong connections to a range of industries thanks to the Clinic Program. This program connects junior and senior students with companies to solve real-world problems in teams of four or five. To date, the program has worked with 549 business sponsors and completed 1,821 projects. Some of the recent companies that have participated in the Clinic Program include:
Payscale considers Harvey Mudd College to be the best college in the USA for technology careers.
13. University of California, Irvine
The Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine, leads the college’s industry connections through its Corporate Partners Program. Some prominent corporate partners to work with the college through this program include Boeing, UPS, and Siemens. Additionally, project partners with the college include:
- Johnson & Johnson
- General Atomics.
Another important part of the college for industry connections is UCI Beall Applied Innovation, which has formed partnerships with companies worldwide. Payscale considers the University of California, Irvine to be the 37th best college for technology careers. Universities.com names it the 10th best college for manufacturing engineering degrees.
12. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
In late 2020, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, launched a new way for industries to connect with its services. This was a new web portal named Industry Engagement at the U. This means that companies can now find resources and staff at the college faster than ever. However, the college already had strong connections to a range of industries before launching this new service. These activities generate $8.6 billion annually for Minnesota’s economy. Niche considers the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, to be the fourth-best for retail management degrees and the 40th-best college for health professions.
11. California State University, Sacramento
In 2021, California State University, Sacramento’s connections to various leading American industries received a major boost with the launch of the California Mobility Center. This center aims to accelerate the pace of mobility commercialization in California and around the world. It will do this in many ways, such as by helping “early-stage companies and industry incumbents intelligently navigate the last mile of the innovation process to launch products successfully.” However, the college already had a range of successful industry engagement programs, such as the Hornet Partner Program, which provides businesses with a range of benefits and services that enhance brand awareness and hiring. CollegeChoice states that California State University, Sacramento has the best construction management degrees in America. Payscale ranks the college as the 96th best in America for technology careers.
10. Boston University
The industry connections at Boston University have led to hospitals detecting lung cancer earlier, a stronger scientific foundation for diagnosing kidney disease, and the development of new ultraviolet LED technology. And over 130 centers and institutes within the college have grown their connections with industries. Currently, the college is engaging with industries to solve a wide range of issues. For example, it is:
- researching a bionic pancreas for type-1 diabetes
- developing acoustic metamaterial that can cancel 94% of sound
- exploring how human hearts change as they age.
Universities.com names Boston University the 19th best college for engineering degrees. Niche names it the seventh-best college for health professions.
9. University of Pennsylvania
The Penn Center for Industry is the University of Pennsylvania’s “one-stop shop” for its industry partners. In 2020 alone, this center raised $116 million in corporate-sponsored research funding and $590 million in venture capital funding. In 2021, the center is strengthening its industry connections. For instance, in May 2021, the college announced that a gene therapy company that spans the college had raised $76 million. Some of its current alliances include:
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
Payscale considers the University of Pennsylvania to be the 44th best college for technology careers. Niche names it the top college for retail management degrees.
8. Arizona State University
The industry connections at Arizona State University are only growing stronger in 2021. Thanks to the solutions that the college is providing to businesses as they reopen while the coronavirus pandemic recedes, such as workplace customization and data insight application. However, the college already has some incredible corporate partners, including:
- the Mayo Clinic
SCollegeChoice considers Arizona State University to be the second-best college for construction management degrees. Universities.com names its polytechnic campus specifically as the 21st-best college for manufacturing degrees.
7. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Universities.com considers Worcester Polytechnic Institute to be the top college for manufacturing engineering. Payscale names it the 15th best college for technology careers. Several divisions within the college have fostered its industry connections in different manners. For instance, the Office of Technology Commercialization helps inventors by working with the Tech Advisors Network. The college’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center runs a range of business link-building activities, such as hosting mentors in residence. In 2021, Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s technology connections received a new boost. The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute announced that it was moving to the college and launching a new $100,000 grant.
6. The University of Wisconsin, Madison
Both Niche rankings consider The University of Wisconsin, Madison, one of the top American colleges for leading industries. The source names the college the fifth-best for health professions and the second-best for retail management. The college is always looking for new ways to connect with businesses in competitive industries. For instance, in April 2021, the college launched a new website that made it easier for professionals to identify and create connections with college research collaborators. In the future, the college will likely become a top choice for students who want to enter the tech industry. The college has transformed its local tech industry into one of the fastest-growing in America.
5. Drexel University
The Solutions Institute at Drexel University acts as “the gateway for organizations to connect” to the college’s resources and experts. It helps leading industry organizations with the following:
- corporate education
- talent acquisition
- other business engagement activities.
Additionally, the college’s Steinbright Career Development Center connects students to a wide range of employers, including Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, startups, and government agencies. Niche considers Drexel University to be the 10th-best college in America for retail management and the 48th-best college for health professions. CollegeChoice names the college the 15th best for construction management.
4. Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
Niche considers Purdue University to be the third-best for retail management and the 62nd-best for health professions. CollegeChoice names it the third-best for construction management. Payscale names it the 79th best for technology careers. Purdue University’s Office of Industry Partnerships is strong, and in 2021, it has only gotten better. For instance, the college announced that it is bringing well over $100 million into the Indiana economy in 2021. This is due, in part, to partnerships with leading automobile companies like Rolls Royce. It has also been affiliated with over 300 startups since 2013.
3. Northwestern University
The corporate engagement at Northwestern University has led to some serious results. In 2020 alone, the college had unique partnerships with 234 companies and corporate foundations. This resulted in $887.3 million in sponsored research awards that same year. Companies from America’s largest sectors have engaged with Northwestern University in many ways, including:
- interacting with students
- licensing college technology
- sponsoring class projects, and more
Northwestern University is Niche’s top college for health professions. It is also Universities.com’s seventh-best college for manufacturing engineering. Lastly, Payscale names it the 90th best college for technology careers.
2. New York University
New York City, New York
Many schools that make up New York University have strong industry connections. For instance, the Tisch School of the Arts has the Violet Network, which helps students and alumni expand their professional network and provides career guidance. And the School of Professional Studies often has industry leaders teaching and interacting with students in the classroom. CollegeChoice considers New York University to be the fifth-best college for construction management. Niche considers the college to be the 24th best for health professions. Universities.com names it the 24th best college for manufacturing degrees. And Payscale names it the 89th best for technology careers.
1. Brigham Young University
Four of the five methodology lists state that Brigham Young University is one of the top colleges for America’s leading industries. The college’s highest placement comes on Universities.com, which names it the second-best college for manufacturing engineering in America. CollegeChoice names it the seventh-best for construction management. Niche names it the 10th best college for health professions. Lastly, Payscale names it the 39th best college for tech careers. And the college’s connections to America’s leading industries are only getting stronger. For instance, in late 2020, the college announced that one of the latest technology startups it had created had become the fastest-growing simulation company in America. The college ensures that students get plenty of experience with leading companies during study. For instance, in the past, the college had connected students with companies like the outdoor equipment company Black Diamond to create mobile lighting prototypes.
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