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Top 10 jobs viewed on

November 2018

What careers are students and graduates considering? Are they drawn to jobs with high demand for new entrants, do they look first for glamorous and well-paid roles, or are they excited by having more responsibility?

The data shows that students and graduates are attracted to a variety of occupations, but their enthusiasm does not always tally with the availability of roles. A look at the most frequently viewed job profiles on sheds light on this.

1. Detective

This was the number one viewed job profile on Prospects in the past six months (April to September). More opportunities for prospective entrants are opening up now that the government has launched its national detective training programme. A £2.8million investment by the Home Office to support Police Now in 2018/19 and a further £350,000 seed funding for the detective entry programme is intended to increase the number of detectives by up to 1,000 in the next five years.1 This development could explain the spark in interest, and the introduction of this 12-week programme could encourage more to consider pursuing a career as a detective.

2. Social worker

According to the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education 2016/17 (DLHE) survey a significant number of graduates enter this profession. Social worker was the 15th most common professional-level occupation for first-degree graduates and eighth for all graduates. London was a prime location for graduates to start their career (12.9%), with those employed outside of the capital securing work in the North West (11.6%) and the South East (11%).

A report by the National Audit Office found that there were 17,000 social worker jobs in the care workforce in England in 2016-17.2 However, despite the job profile's popularity on Prospects, the sector is suffering from supply issues - 'Social worker in children's and family services' is listed on the UK Shortage Occupations List. Huge shortages of qualified graduates have resulted in a number of unfilled vacancies, and as a consequence the number of people working in social care (which includes social workers) is falling short of demand.

3. Clinical psychologist

The vast majority (95%) of clinical psychologists work in the NHS, according to the British Psychological Society.3

Roles often require a Doctorate, and nearly all UK-domiciled Doctoral graduates who became clinical psychologists (305) had studied psychology or clinical medicine. London dominated the jobs market, with 29.2% employed in the capital. The South East (13%) and the West Midlands (10.5%) were the second and third most popular regions.

The majority of clinical psychologist page views on Prospects were from females (67.7%), although this may be unsurprising as statistics reveal a clear gender split, with 84.4% of the 2016/17 graduate cohort working as a clinical psychologist identifying as female. This gender imbalance aligns with the findings in a 2016 BPS report showing that a higher percentage of UK registered clinical psychologists were female.4

4. Police officer

There has been a year-on-year increase in the number of graduates working as police officers (765 compared with 700 in 2015/16). This is despite the overall number of police officers in England and Wales declining by more than 20,000 between March 2010 and March 2018.5 There are regional disparities, with 51% of forces gaining officers and 47% losing officers. Nevertheless, with numbers at the lowest recorded level since the early 1980s, opportunities for graduates could become increasingly competitive.6

5. Chartered accountant

This occupation featured eighth on the most common professional-level jobs list for first-degree graduates and 16th for all graduates. As expected, a large proportion had studied accountancy, but a few came from economics, finance, mathematics, and business studies disciplines.

Accountancy professionals are currently in demand, with three in ten managers facing competition for high-calibre accounting and finance professionals.7 The sector appears to be experiencing a skills shortage, highlighted in a report that found 28% of senior professionals believed their 2017 candidates lacked financial and data analysis skills.8 This issue could be set to continue, as half of CFOs expect the accounting and finance skills shortage to be exacerbated by Brexit.9

6. Forensic scientist

Although it's a very popular occupation among students and graduates viewing the Prospects website, jobs in forensic science are scarce. The majority of employers prefer a degree in chemistry over forensic science - something those interested in this career should bear in mind. Alternatively, they may require advice and guidance on other employment opportunities that match their skills and interests but have higher demand for graduates.

7. Teaching assistant

Last year 3,690 graduates entered teaching assistant positions. The majority of them, 79%, were female.

The number of teaching assistant positions could be affected by the increasing pressure on schools to cut expenditure by £3billion over the next four years.10 A report by the National Association of Head Teachers found that more than four fifths (86%) of respondents had reduced the number of teaching assistants, or hours worked, to balance their 2017/18 budget. This was a significant increase on the 2015 figure (49%).11

School leaders were also asked 'by how many full-time equivalent roles had they decreased their workforce'. Three quarters (76%) of those who answered said they had reduced their teaching assistants by between one and four full-time equivalent roles.

8. Forensic psychologist

Although this is a popular profile on Prospects, few graduates enter this profession straight after leaving university, as it's beneficial for entrants to have had work experience in a mental health setting.

The UK has more than 2,000 practitioners registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC),12 and figures show an annual increase in registrants.13 Training at postgraduate level is typically required, and registration with the HCPC is mandatory to practise as a forensic psychologist in the UK.

HM Prison Service is the UK's main employer of forensic psychologists. Roles outside of this setting are available in the NHS and private healthcare providers, social services, offender management services or academia.14

9. Public relations officer

This is a growing industry, with jobs in PR and communications becoming increasingly popular. Approximately 86,000 are employed in these roles (a 3.6% increase since 2016), and future growth can be expected as every Public Relations and Communication Association census reports greater numbers.15

The workforce is predominantly female - reflected in the DLHE data, which shows 71.5% of graduates who worked in PR in 2016/17 were women.

PR companies recruit talent from a range of disciplines. Degrees in English (11.7%), journalism (8.2%), politics (6.8%), media studies (6.2%) and marketing (5.7%) were common among graduates employed as PR officers.

London occupies a large share of the jobs market, particularly for graduates, with 56.6% working in the city six months after graduation. Those opting to work outside London were often employed in the South East (7.8%) and North West (7.3%).

10. Counsellor

Counselling came ninth in the list of top professional -level jobs entered by graduates who had studied psychology or subjects allied to medicine. Counsellors appear to be well represented across the country. Popular employment regions include the West Midlands (13.6%), Yorkshire and the Humber (11.7%) and North West (11.5%), with fewer graduates working in London (10.9%).

Jeremy Hunt, the former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, launched a plan in 2017 to expand the mental health workforce (which includes counsellors).16 This will result in the creation of 21,000 vacancies to be filled by 2021,17 potentially inspiring more graduates to pursue a career in counselling.


  1. Government to launch national detective training programme, GOV.UK.
  2. The adult social care workforce in England, National Audit Office, 2018.   
  3. Clinical Psychologist, Health Careers.
  4. HCPC registered Psychologists in the UK, The British Psychological Society, 2016.
  5. Police officer numbers in England and Wales, Full Fact, 2018.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Solving the UK skills shortage, Robert Walters, totaljobs, Jobsite, 2018.  
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Financial sustainability of schools, National Audit Office, 2016.
  11. Breaking Point 2017/18: A snapshot of the continuing crisis in school and academy funding, NAHT, 2018.
  12. Forensic psychologist, Health Careers.
  13. HCPC registered Psychologists in the UK, The British Psychological Society, 2016.
  14. Forensic psychologist, Health Careers.
  15. PR and Communications Census 2018, PRCA, 2018.
  16. Thousands of new roles to be created in mental health workforce plan, GOV.UK.
  17. Shortage of qualified staff 'not the issue' - BACP respond to Government plans, Mental Health Today.

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