TMCnet Feature
April 14, 2021

University of Phoenix Reports Hope Prevails in the American Workforce



After a difficult year, University of Phoenix checked in with the workforce and found that hope prevails over all. In the first annual Career Optimism Index™, the University of Phoenix Career Institute surveyed 5,000 American adults to find out the state of their careers after enduring a year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report found many challenges facing Americans, but overall it noted the optimism and resilience of Americans:



  • One-third of Americans surveyed report COVID-19 has taken their career off course.
  • Only 52 percent of respondents felt that their job was in line with their career.
  • Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed were optimistic about the future of their career.

Exploring this optimism is important for understanding where Americans see themselves and the future of their jobs.

“The pandemic has only exacerbated the career challenges of American workers – the increase of automation, the widening skills gap, financial insecurity, mental wellness and balancing parenting and home life – yet despite this, there is optimism,” said University of Phoenix President Peter Cohen. “At University of Phoenix, we’ve been dedicated to helping students and alumni achieve their career goals for the past four decades. We formed the University of Phoenix Career Institute to help solve broad, systemic issues for all American workers – and that starts with a greater understanding of what they are facing in the workplace. The Index has provided that insight.”

What Is Driving American Optimism?

The difficulties of the pandemic were crushing for many. Yet overall, Americans have demonstrated notable levels of resilience and determination that are not surprising. Where is this optimism focused? The results of the Index revealed that many workers had a strong view of their professional abilities for a positive outlook on the future.

Open to the Options

When it comes to changes, many feel they are open to options. The survey found 7 out of ten Americans felt that they were prepared to search for a job right now. While many choose to stay in jobs that offer some semblance of stability, many feel they would be able to find a different job if necessary.

Highly Skilled and Adaptable

The average American felt confident about their abilities and potential. Though many reported a lack of direction for improving their skills or education, 83 percent of Americans believed themselves to be highly employable and ready to adapt to new working circumstances. Eighty-two percent of Americans reported feeling that they were resilient to the changes they faced within their careers resulting from the pandemic. Workers in New York and Boston reported extremely high rates of feeling resilient (91 percent) after so many challenges.

Young and Fearless

The report showed that most of the workers who were unhappy with their current workplace tended to be from younger generations. Many respondents felt optimistic about their potential options, which is a common trend among youth. Among millennials, only 36 percent said their current job was their career. Generation Z and millennials were also much more likely to report considering a career change. This is understandable considering that a career change early on leads to optimism rather than distress.

New Opportunities

Job opportunities are beginning to open up as the pandemic strain starts to ease. A reported 63 percent of workers said they felt good about their prospective job opportunities. The younger generations were less likely to report this trend, with boomers feeling the most positivity at 65 percent. While younger generations felt that they have time to make changes, older generations felt good about some of the options opening up for them now.

Fear of Change

While the Index demonstrated a significant amount of optimism among working Americans, the report was not completely positive. The pandemic caused frustration and created concerns among workers all over the world. Unemployment rates rose, and many individuals struggled with changing requirements in their existing jobs.

The average American worker faces many barriers, as the Career Optimism Index noted. While a majority of those surveyed felt optimistic, they were still concerned about what the future could hold.

  • Forty-five percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “I am worried about being able to keep up in a job market that is becoming increasingly dependent on technology.”
  • Forty-two percent of those surveyed admitted: “I am worried that my job skills will become outdated because of advancements in technology.”
  • Only 22% of survey participants reported: “My job has become automated due to the pandemic.”

Americans face a number of emotional barriers that create challenges in their professional lives. Regarding their careers, Americans listed low self-confidence, fear of change, lack of knowledge and low motivation as leading issues holding them back from advancement. As far as structural barriers, the top problems for Americans were reported to be:

  • Lacking educational opportunities, specifically access to higher education degrees
  • Lacking opportunities for skill building and professional development
  • Lacking required skills needed to achieve a higher position or pay
  • Lacking the time or schedule flexibility to pursue career advancement
  • Facing financial issues that are barriers to career advancement options

While there was clear optimism, the average American was concerned about their career path and may not feel they were in a job offering a long-term place in their plans. Optimism was quickly overshadowed by the worries about increasing technology and automation. Educational opportunities that are flexible and geared toward the working American adult are crucial to support this valuable part of the working class.

About University of Phoenix

As the first fully online program for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, University of Phoenix has been helping American working adults shift their career paths since 1989. With more than 30 years of online educational leadership, University of Phoenix offers over 50 different undergraduate degree programs. The University of Phoenix Career Institute was developed to further address the systemic barriers facing working adults as they seek to enhance their careers.

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