In the struggle to attract talent, many government and defense industry employers worry they lack the cool factor necessary to attract young talent. A recent survey by global employer branding company Universum suggests they shouldn’t.

More than 62,000 students were surveyed across a variety of disciplines, and government and defense contracting employers had a spot near the top of almost every list. Engineering students didn’t rank Microsoft number one, but rather NASA. Boeing cracked the top 5 and Lockheed Martin Corporation was six – outranking Apple.

Humanities and liberal arts majors selected the United Nations number one as an ideal employer, and placed the U.S. Department of State four and the FBI five. Six of the top 10 employers selected by liberal arts majors are government organizations.

The fight for computer science majors is real – only one government employer made it into the top 10 -NASA. But a number of tech companies with government contracts made the list, meaning there’s still opportunity to lure these entry-level workers.

Mission Matters

It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that mission matters. Of all government agencies the National Security Agency has frequently touted itself as an organization that doesn’t have a hiring problem. An aggressive program of reaching out to college students and sharing with them the types of work available is a part of their recruitment strategy. When it comes to what sells an employee of any age, salary is generally top at the list but mission or doing work that matters is frequently second on the list.

Mission matters even more for younger employees who may not be as pressured to select a job based on the tertiary factors such as location or great schools. That means the government has a strong case for why it ranks high on the list of places young people want to work.

The real issue? Just because young people see government agencies as ideal employers doesn’t mean they’ll have the patience to endure the 106 day time-to-hire the government averages, or the one to two year wait for a security clearance.

When it comes to what will truly make a difference in enticing young people to pursue government and national security careers, it’s clear the problems are practical, not an issue of image.

Top Employers Selected by Engineering Students

2 Tesla
3 Space X
4 Google
5 Boeing
6 Lockheed Martin Corporation
7 Apple
8 Walt Disney Company
9 General Electric (GE)
10 Amazon

Top Employers for Humanities/Liberal Arts Majors

1 United Nations
2 Walt Disney Company
3 Google
4 U.S. Department of State
6 National Geographic
7 U.S. Department of Education
8 Central Intelligence Agency
9 Netflix
10 Peace Corps

Top Employers for Computer Science Majors

1 Google
2 Microsoft
3 Amazon
4 Apple
5 Facebook
6 Nintendo
7 Tesla
8 Space X
10 Blizzard Entertainment

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.