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Graduate employment FAQs

September 2018

A lot of attention is placed on outcomes after graduation. Using the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) data, we answer the most common graduate employment questions

How many students graduate each year?

According to DLHE, 757,300 people graduated from a UK higher education provider in 2017. This shows an increase in the number of graduates compared to the previous year's figure of 742,730.

Which industries do they work in after completing their first degree?

Outcomes will differ depending on subject studied, although looking at the graduate cohort as a whole we can see that a significant proportion of UK domiciled graduates entered the health (18.5%), retail (12.6%) and education (12%) industries in 2017.

The most popular occupational groups were:

  • health professionals (17.8%) business,
  • HR and finance professionals (10.8%)
  • retail, catering, waiting and bar staff (10.3%).

What percentage of graduates go into temping after graduation?

Temping might not be the most popular route to pursue after graduation, but it can be beneficial, helping graduates build up extra skills and experience to put on their CV. In 2017, 1.9% of graduates went into temping roles (this includes those who worked as supply teachers) and the majority of these graduates were employed in non-professional occupations.

Although it should be noted that 7.2% of employed graduates were on contracts of less than 12 months and this may include graduates on temping contracts, but currently with an employer.

How many go on to do voluntary or unpaid work?

Graduates can also pursue voluntary work to improve their employability prospects. The DLHE data shows that, in 2017, a small proportion (1%) of graduates worked as volunteers.

A small percentage (1.5%) of graduates were in unpaid work. The most common occupations among those who worked unpaid were:

  • arts, design and media professionals (23.9%)
  • legal, social and welfare professionals (17.9%).

Do many go into self-employment straight after university?

In 2017, 4.9% were self-employed/freelancing 6 months after graduation. A considerable proportion of those with an arts background (music, acting and photography graduates) are employed on this basis.

It is therefore unsurprising that 48.3% of graduates who were self-employed became arts, design and media professionals.

Are many graduates in jobs that are classified as 'graduate occupations'?

Currently there is no formal and widely-agreed definition of what a graduate job is, although we can use the DLHE data to see how many graduates were employed in a professional-level role. A professional-level role classed as such using the Standard Occupational Classification system used by the Office of National Statistics and other bodies to identify different kinds of job.

Most jobs that require a degree (but not all) are also in the professional-level group and most jobs in the professional group (bar a few) require a degree to acquire. On average, 74.1% were in a professional-level job 6 months after graduation in 2017.

A higher proportion of men were in professional-level employment (76%) than women (72.7%).

What were the main reasons for graduates accepting a job?

The most common reason graduates accepted jobs was because it fitted into their career plan, or was in the exact line of work they wished to pursue (45.2%).

Main reasons for graduates accepting a job offer,Percentage of graduates 
It fitted into my career plan/ it was exactly the type of work I wanted,45.2
In order to earn a living/ pay off debts,24.5
To gain and broaden my experience in order to get the type of job I really want,24.5
It was in the right location,23.4
It was the best job offer I received,18.1
It was an opportunity to progress in the organisation,17.1
The job was well-paid,14.4
To see if I would like the type of work it involved,14.1
It was the only job offer I received,7.1

How many graduates are working in a job which required their qualification?

The majority of graduates (81%) employed in a professional-level role stated that their qualification was a formal requirement, or gave them an advantage.

Those in non-professional level employment were less likely to report that their degree was required or an advantage (25.2%).

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