University of Phoenix’s Career Optimism Index™ study is a comprehensive study of career perceptions among American workers. The study will be conducted annually to uncover insights on workforce trends and to identify workable solutions that can help American workers succeed in their careers.

In its first annual installment, the Index collected feedback from over 5,000 U.S. adults regarding their career concerns; challenges they faced, are facing, or expect to face; and how optimistic or pessimistic they are about their careers and opportunities for advancement in the future.

The release of the study’s findings has been timely, with the U.S. recently passing the one-year mark of COVID-19 lockdowns. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated many career challenges for American workers. In spite of the increased adoption of industrial automation, a quickly widening skills gap, widespread financial insecurity, inadequate mental wellness resources and the difficulties of balancing parenting and home life with work life, workers have a great deal of optimism for the future.

To put the Index findings in some perspective, consider the following:

  • About 33 percent of respondents feel that the COVID-19 pandemic took their career off course, and over 40 percent reported living paycheck to paycheck. However, over three-quarters of those surveyed remain hopeful about the future.
  • Seven in 10 respondents said that hope was what got them through the past year.
  • Eight in 10 still considered themselves to be highly employable and felt they could easily adapt to new work situations.
  • Seven in 10 felt that they were prepared to search for another job if necessary.

These are positive findings. However, many respondents (over 40 percent of them) felt that they did not have a clear path forward regarding long-term career advancement. Furthermore, over 50 percent of respondents stated that connecting with others in the field of their interest, finding mentors and advocates and finding relevant training programs were holding them back.

These concerns were addressed by 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.”

The Index results also prove useful in directing future efforts regarding career readiness and how to build a skill set for the workplace. For example, the study found that emotional and structural barriers are  impacting career progression. Low self-confidence, fear of change, lack of education and lack of opportunities for upskilling and development were frequently cited as reasons for poor personal, educational and professional attainment.

Automation also had an impact, with over 20 percent of respondents stating that they lost work due to automation, with another 40 percent more stating that they were worried that their skills might soon become outdated due to advancements in technology.

A final level of complexity uncovered by the study was the correlation between race and gender in optimism levels. While 44 percent of employed Americans said they were worried about losing their job due to the economy, women, people of color, and Gen Z respondents had much higher levels of anxiety than the average. The same disparities applied to job and career stress, with the average of 25 percent surpassed by Latinx (27 percent), women (29 percent), Asian (30 percent) and Gen Z (30 percent) respondents.

The Role of University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is uniquely positioned to help with many of these issues with a very diverse student body. Over 60 percent of the University’s population is female and over half belong to ethnic minorities. Additionally, over half of the University’s instructors are female, and about half of all instructors belong to ethnic minorities.

Many Americans are in need of help with long-term career enhancement by improving their skills but do not know where to begin. University of Phoenix, with a wide range of program offerings, an extensive network of mentors and professionals and flexible teaching and learning formats created specifically for today’s busy working professional, can help those impacted by COVID-19 get their life back on track. Context-driven instruction, combined with guidance and teaching by experienced instructors and can help those facing career uncertainty or work obsoletion pivot their careers or pivot to a new line of work or interest.

You can read more about the Career Optimism Index™ and its findings here, and you can learn more about the University of Phoenix Career Institute here.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix constantly innovates to help working adults overcome the many learning, career enhancement and workplace challenges they face in a rapidly changing world. With flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, a diverse student body and access to rich learning and training resources, students can effectively pursue their career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. The University offers a wide range of degree, associate and certificate programs at select locations across the U.S. and online. Learn more about how University of Phoenix can help you reach your personal and professional goals by visiting