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Graduate opportunities - fact or myth?

Employability Service

Category: Student support services

28 January 2020

As a careers adviser, students often share with me their anxieties about there not being enough graduate jobs, and doubts that a degree really will help their career – after all, ‘everybody has a degree’. I too have seen this in the media, but is it real? Or are these myths?

I attended a conference with the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) to find out more.

Myth 1: everybody has a degree nowadays

Two students wearing graduation robes and mortar boards

Fact: 39.2% of the adult population in the UK had a degree at the end of 2018 and less than half of students currently aged 14-18 will ever go to university. Therefore, those with a degree are still in the minority.

Myth 2: there aren’t any jobs for graduates

Fact: 73.9% of graduates were in professional-level roles six months after graduating in 2017. Annual Population Survey (APS) data shows us that the UK added 353,500 professional-level jobs in 2018 in addition to those jobs that already existed, and unemployment rates for graduates were at 2.3% in 2018.

Map of the United Kingdom with London highlighted

Myth 3: all the graduate jobs are in London

Fact: most people and graduates never work in London. In 2017, only 22.4% of graduates went to work in London; remember 19.8% of UK graduates live in London. We know that one in three graduates work in London, Manchester or Birmingham, but two-thirds of graduates work elsewhere in the UK.

Myth 4: your degree subject must be related to the job

Fact: the UK has a flexible, skilled job market and the majority of graduate jobs do not ask for a specific degree discipline. For example, if your degree is in history, you are eligible to apply for a range of roles. Likewise, if your degree is vocational (eg engineering), it doesn’t mean you have to follow that vocation (although note that most graduates on a vocational degree do follow that career, at least at the outset).

So in conclusion, I think we hear a lot of information about the graduate labour market through word of mouth, perhaps stories in the media and others we interact with. All trusted sources, of course. However, it seems that some of this information is actually myth and the facts are positive for the majority of graduates.

Knowledge of this helps me to feel hopeful when working with students and graduates, so please, do share these positive messages with your friends!

By Sarah Sterling, Employability and Careers Adviser

Data sources:

  • Graduate Prospects and HECSU
  • Institute of Student Employers (ISE)
  • Department for Education
  • Centre for Cities
  • HESA
  • ONS
  • British Chamber of Commerce
  • Bank of England


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