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What do Masters graduates do? - Social sciences

May 2018

Full-time Masters graduates in social sciences are more likely to be in full-time work and less likely to be unemployed than the average in all subjects

Social sciences was the second most popular Masters subject studied in 2016 with 9,795 UK graduates representing 15% of the total cohort.

The mostly commonly-studied subjects were social work and politics (together accounting for 43%), although every subject in this discipline had reasonable representation.

A large proportion of students studied full time. This is possibly linked to the popularity of further study as an immediate option among social science undergraduates.

Subject overview

  • 9,795 graduates
  • 15% of total Masters cohort
  • 71.6% studied full time
  • 28.4% studied part time


The outcomes for full-time social science Masters graduates were strong. They were more likely to be in full-time work, less likely to be in part-time work and less likely to be unemployed than typical full-time Masters students. They were still more likely to be unemployed than their undergraduate colleagues, however.

The only indicator they do not perform ‘well’ in is further study, though this may simply reflect the needs of the labour market. For example, in order to become a licensed social worker, an undergraduate or Masters degree in social work is required, but above Masters-level study is not.

Interestingly, part-time social science graduates are almost the complete opposite. Compared with the average, they were less likely to be in full-time employment, more likely to be unemployed and more likely to be in further study.

Outcomes,Social sciences FT,Social sciences PT
Full time work,63.92977872,70.35612449
Part time work,10.09727785,11.97883374
Working and studying,3.390318842,3.635171114
Further study,11.01309281,4.298284133


Local and central government was very popular as most social workers were employed in this industry.

Surprisingly, the second largest employer for social science Masters graduates was the health industry. These graduates studied social work and became nurses or medical practitioners. Perhaps courses here are being utilised to aid or prepare health professionals who work (or plan on working) in the community.

The majority of those in education were HE teaching professionals but a small number were employed in teaching roles at either primary or secondary level.

Industries,Social sciences FT,Social sciences PT
Construction · engineering · research and development,4.592849483,6.823495791
Hospitality & tourism,2.739054051,0.80146524
Media and publishing,1.848947044,0.984620181
IT and telecoms,2.490930662,1.256105165
Legal and accountancy,7.334470328,5.942793308
Management consultancy,3.710728057,1.472383872
Other business and finance,9.467761071,6.635144965
Marketing and PR,1.872903785,0.746908449
Social care,10.08236556,11.72256573
Local and central govt,30.86284195,26.96209602
Arts · sports and leisure,1.437974857,1.245063909
Other industries,2.67431381,2.252416086


Social and welfare occupations were popular, particularly among those who studied social work. Consequently, social worker was the most common job title, although both welfare and housing and legal associate were popular.

A number of graduates also entered business and finance roles becoming:

  • business associates
  • management consultants and business analysts
  • research and administrative professionals.

Other professionals became researchers and public service professionals.

A significant number of part-time graduates became managers, particularly in health services. This highlights the use of Masters qualifications as continuing professional development (CPD) courses by employers.

Both full-time and part-time social scientists were considerably more likely than typical Masters graduates to work for the largest businesses. In fact, other than medical graduates they were the most likely to do so. Medics are an outlier as they almost exclusively work for the NHS.

Types of work,Social sciences FT,Social sciences PT
Education ,3.285804789,7.154679701
Social and welfare,31.87111327,26.36744511
Business and finance,19.78414711,12.09170611
Marketing and sales,6.189222128,4.849742675
Arts and media,1.454549587,1.587917346
Other professionals,9.013946062,9.742803941
Health and education occupations,2.182960747,1.487056146
Clerical and secretarial,6.792917025,4.17022267
Retail and service ,4.746604394,1.325419608
Other occupations,2.230119972,1.509038715
Unknown occupations,0.255682545,0.064654615


Only London, the South East and Northern Ireland employed a greater proportion of working graduates than they taught.

Part-time social science graduates behaved like typical Masters graduates with respect to whether they moved to find employment. However, full-time social science Masters graduates were homebirds and were both less likely to go to a region new to them and more likely to never leave home.

The most popular locations for these graduates were:

  • London
  • Manchester
  • Leeds
  • Edinburgh
  • Birmingham.

London was overwhelmingly dominant. The home regions of the next four most popular cities all recruited a smaller proportion of working graduates than they taught. This is likely testament to both the quality of the universities and the lack of a wider Masters jobs market outside of the major cities in these regions.

Location,Social sciences FT,Social sciences PT
North East,2.735967819,1.828355268
North West,9.75386708,8.284078073
Yorkshire and The Humber,5.349230925,7.725195051
East Midlands,3.583324893,4.936033835
West Midlands,5.513608937,4.322641658
East of England,5.161990479,7.443454961
South East,10.14426486,10.93466782
South West,5.359938648,5.219087399
Northern Ireland,1.967905772,4.30162608
Guernsey · Jersey and the Isle of Man,0.231518326,0.394042084

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