The Definition

Understanding College and Career Readiness

College and career readiness refers to the content knowledge, skills, and habits that students must possess to be successful in postsecondary education or training that leads to a sustaining career. A student who is ready for college and career can qualify for and succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing college courses without the need for remedial or developmental coursework.

Prerequisite skills and capabilities for college and career readiness include:

  • proficiency in reading a wide range of materials and informational texts,
  • fluent writing in several modes, most notably expository and descriptive,
  • quantitative literacy through algebra and including geometry, combined with the ability to understand and interpret data,
  • comprehension of the scientific method and organization of knowledge in the sciences,
  • awareness of social systems and the study of these systems,
  • basic proficiency in a second language,
  • basic awareness of other cultures, and
  • experiences in and appreciation of creative and expressive arts.

Not every student needs exactly the same proficiency in each of these areas. A student’s interests influence the precise knowledge and skill profile necessary to be ready for postsecondary studies in their field of interest.

Some states have defined, or are in the midst of establishing, college and career readiness benchmarks based on outcomes in postsecondary institutions. These benchmarks can take the form of assessments or course completion.

Despite noteworthy distinctions, college readiness and career readiness are similar. Analyses of college courses reveal that the learning skills and foundational knowledge associated with college success overlap considerably those necessary for success in training programs that lead to careers. Given this overlap, it serves no useful purpose to separate students into two groups, one bound for college, the other for work. All students aspire to enter the workforce, and, to do so, all will need a comparable set of foundational skills and learning abilities if they are to succeed.