Class of 2021 spells out CWRU on football field

First Destination Survey reports a strong start at prestigious firms and institutions for the Class of 2021

The Case Western Reserve University Class of 2021 graduated in the very midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite having at least a full year of their undergraduate experience impacted by health and safety protocols, including having more limited access to certain experiential education activities, the annual First Destination Survey reports the graduates have gone on to have remarkable outcomes.

“We know the outcomes are remarkable because we have excellent data,” said Drew Poppleton, director of Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education. Data about first destinations for CWRU graduates is collected annually by the Office of Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education through surveys sent to members of the graduating class, polls on social media and conversations with faculty and staff.

“This year, we are pleased to report a knowledge rate of 87%, the highest percentage of known outcomes for graduates since 2005,“ added Krittika Grau, senior associate director of career education.

In 2020, many healthcare organizations paused all shadowing and volunteering opportunities, and Glassdoor and Forbes estimated that approximately 50% of internships were canceled or deferred because of the pandemic. Despite this obstacle, 98% of the Class of 2021 participated in at least one experiential education opportunity, consistent with the university’s six-year average. 

“This news is very encouraging,” reported Brian Matthews, assistant director of experiential learning, when asked about participation in experiential education. “For students, they gain valuable skills and insights into potential career paths, can apply knowledge learned in the classroom to actual situations in the marketplace and can use these experiences to enhance graduate program study. For employers, these students are more valuable candidates and can make a significant difference earlier in their careers.”  

While many from the Class of 2021 chose to pursue full-time employment (45%), nearly as many opted to seek advanced education as their primary first destination (44%). This is the closest margin between those primary plans since 2011. 

For graduates entering the workforce with full-time positions, the median salary range was $60,000-$64,999, a $5,000 decrease from the Class of 2020, juxtaposed by an increase in the total number of students earning more than $100,000 (11% compared to 8% in 2020).

Graduates pursuing advanced education were accepted to 113 unique institutions in the U.S. and abroad, including acceptances to eight of the nine Ivy League institutions (Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and Yale). 

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 six years using Tableau.


Case Western Reserve graduates launched their careers in diverse industries, and the highest numbers entered the fields of engineering (32%), nursing (15%), research (9%), healthcare/public health (8%), information technology (7%), financial services (5%) and consulting (4%).

Ohio (199) remained the most popular destination for graduates beginning their careers, followed in significant numbers by New York (29), Illinois (28), Massachusetts (21), California (20), Pennsylvania (17), Maryland (16), Washington (15) and Wisconsin (14). The value of a CWRU education was recognized internationally as well, as students took positions in Japan, Bermuda, Moldova and South Korea.

In these sought-after job markets, graduates found positions with top firms, several of which hired four or more members of the Class of 2021:

  • Amazon 
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Cleveland Clinic 
  • Deloitte
  • Epic 
  • KeyBank
  • Microsoft 
  • Parker Hannifin
  • Progressive
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Saint-Gobain
  • ScribeAmerica
  • Teach For America
  • University Hospitals

Graduates reported a median starting salary range of $60,000-$64,999. By college and school, median salaries were:

  • Case School of Engineering: $70,000-$74,999, no change from last year
  • College of Arts and Sciences: $35,000-$39,999, a $5,000 decrease from last year
  • Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing: $55,000-$59,000, a $5,000 increase from last year
  • Weatherhead School of Management: $60,000-64,999, no change from last year

While the median starting salary for graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences decreased, it is important to note that of the students who shared a starting salary of less than $40,000:

  • 38% of students were pre-med, pre-health or pre-law students in what are most likely full-time gap year positions;
  • 26% of the total number of students who earned less than $40,000 have since applied to medical school or other professional programs; and
  • Of the total number of students earning less than $40,000, 64% indicated that in addition to full-time employment, their primary post-graduation plans included attending graduate school.

Advanced education

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

  • Boston University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Cleveland State University
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • The Ohio State University
  • State University of New York – System
  • University of California – System
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Toledo
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Yale University

More than 155 graduates opted to continue their studies at Case Western Reserve for another degree.

For those graduates pursuing an advanced degree, master’s degree programs were the most popular (59%), followed by MD/DO (16%), PhD (11%), JD (3%), DDS/DMD (3%) and other programs (8%).

Experiential education

Hands-on learning—in the form of research, creative endeavors, internships, practica, 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, 98% said they participated in at least one activity:

  • 83% completed an internship, practicum or co-op;
  • 80% conducted research or pursued a creative endeavor;
  • 55% engaged in community service; and
  • 34% participated in shadowing experiences.

Review the full results of the 2021 First Destination Survey