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What do Masters graduates do? - Physical sciences, maths and IT

May 2018

The relatively low numbers of graduates going into part-time employment suggests success in getting full-time jobs or winning funding for further study

In 2016, 5,460 students (8% of the total Masters cohort) studied the physical sciences, maths or IT.

These subjects had the highest proportion of full-time students, and a young student body. Therefore, it’s likely that many of those taking a Masters in these subjects were doing so straight after their undergraduate degree.

However, there were courses with younger student bodies and a lower proportion of full-time graduates, so not all courses have similar student profiles.

Subject overview

  • 5,460 graduates
  • 8.8% of total Masters cohort
  • 78% studied full time
  • 22% studied part time


The full-time work outcomes for physical science, maths and IT graduates were similar to the average.

Both modes of qualification had low part-time employment. This could be seen as indicative of their success in finding either full-time employment or funding for further study (which they were likely to go on to).

Further study for full-time students, in particular, was very high. However, this is to be expected as many scientific research roles require a PhD, and a Masters is often highly recommended, or even required, to get funding for Doctoral study.

While the outcomes for physical science, maths and IT graduates were positive, they continued to experience the higher-than-average unemployment rates that they did at undergraduate level. The Shadbolt1 and Wakeham2 reviews looked into this and highlighted a lack of work readiness as a leading contributor, meaning that graduates had insufficient experience, soft and technical skills.

Outcomes,Physical science · maths and IT FT,Physical science · maths and IT PT
Full time work,59.28600713,75.73807956
Part time work,8.695743585,7.216225951
Working and studying,2.039028527,3.456584651
Further study,17.48364467,4.016742638


Physical science, maths and IT Masters graduates found work in many industries. The main reason for this was the reliance of all areas of the economy on programmers and software developers.

Many physical science, maths and IT graduates seemed to gravitate towards specific industries. For example, geologists and mineralogists worked in manufacturing or the construction, engineering and research and development (R&D) industries. Large quantities of environmental professionals were found in the construction, engineering and R&D industry, and analysts of various forms were primarily found in the business and finance industry.

Masters graduates were more likely to work for big businesses, and this is particularly true for physical science, maths and IT graduates. This could be because physical science, maths and IT graduates were more likely to work in London and other major cities, or because larger businesses tend to have dedicated in-house IT teams and analysts.

Industries,Physical science · maths and IT FT,Physical science · maths and IT PT
Construction · engineering · research and development,18.49531044,9.895471392
Hospitality & tourism,3.347672345,1.284167246
Media and publishing,2.104006528,2.317871207
IT and telecoms,19.87598602,15.92541117
Legal and accountancy,1.75443015,1.882094047
Management consultancy,1.863735732,2.008049571
Other business and finance,10.10144767,10.52090572
Marketing and PR,1.61993895,1.834317813
Social care,1.544382096,1.688093584
Local and central govt,5.242134531,9.605918462
Arts · sports and leisure,2.661112398,1.64031735
Other industries,0.813999174,1.35076442


IT and business and finance roles were unsurprisingly the most popular. Masters graduates in IT occupations tended to be programmers and software developers. Those in business were:

  • business and finance analysts
  • business associates
  • management consultants
  • statisticians.

The ‘other professionals’ occupation group was also popular, but this could be because the group contained environment professionals and lab technicians.

The number of graduates in the science occupation group may seem low, considering that Masters graduates have greater access to this job market than undergraduates. However, lab technicians weren’t included in this category, and many of the research roles were obtained by PhD holders. Those who fell under this heading were almost exclusively geologists, mineralogists and social and humanities scientists.

Types of work,Physical science · maths and IT FT,Physical science · maths and IT PT
Education ,2.894518231,6.768527569
Social and welfare,1.351175523,0.814983039
Business and finance,17.82750993,13.8748347
Marketing and sales,2.92704653,2.424826079
Arts and media,2.172389979,0.862415914
Other professionals,15.07211274,13.82452711
Health and education occupations,1.000870758,0.694244811
Clerical and secretarial,3.608139081,2.065486115
Retail and service ,4.968322441,1.437359857
Other occupations,4.070040936,1.701834071
Unknown occupations,0.100087076,0


Only the East of England, South West and London employed a greater proportion of working physical science, maths and IT graduates than they taught. Some regions hired a significantly smaller number.

This supports migration data showing that regardless of mode of qualification, physical science, maths and IT Masters graduates were more mobile than typical Masters graduates.

However, this says more about the mobility of Masters graduates on the whole, than physical science, maths and IT graduates. Even within this mobile group, fewer than one in three full-time graduates and one in five part-time graduates found employment in a location where they neither studied nor called home.

Outside of London, popular locations for these graduates included:

  • Edinburgh
  • Surrey
  • Oxfordshire
  • Belfast
  • Leeds.

Notably, Birmingham and Manchester are not among the top locations even though overall they were the second and fourth largest recruiters of Masters graduates in 2016 respectively.

Locations,Physical science · maths and IT FT,Physical science · maths and IT PT
North East,2.874681302,2.095817135
North West,8.597421746,8.354038175
Yorkshire and The Humber,6.39597391,5.344772149
East Midlands,3.653891443,3.338107626
West Midlands,5.827181225,5.26146561
East of England,6.634037455,7.091286428
South East,14.79833714,13.69150273
South West,8.552880825,6.405834381
Northern Ireland,3.993323981,2.557656894
Guernsey · Jersey and the Isle of Man,0.182771367,0.146151823

Also in this series


  1. Shadbolt Review of Computer Sciences Degree Accreditation and Graduate Employability, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, 2016.
  2. Wakeham Review of STEM Degree Provision and Graduate Employability, Sir William Wakeham, 2016.

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