Robert Bowles, careers and professional development adviser at the Royal Society of Chemistry, provides an overview of the destinations of science graduates
Science graduates entered a wide range of well-paying jobs. They are in demand in sectors that seek to solve some of the biggest challenges that we face, such as human healthcare and environmental degradation, as we seek a sustainable future. Many of these sectors also offer increasingly socially conscious graduates the chance to participate in meaningful work, which is becoming increasingly important to graduates and other young people.
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What do graduates do? 2023/24
Chemistry graduates had the highest levels of full-time employment (57%), slightly ahead of physics (51%) and biology (49%). Around 20% of physics, biology and chemistry graduates surveyed went into further study, but this figure was lower than in last year’s data. Of those pursuing further study, roughly 50% of chemistry and physics graduates chose to pursue a PhD, whereas 48% of biology and sports science graduates chose to pursue further specialisations with a Masters degree.
Full-time further study was lowest among sports science graduates (10%), although graduates of this subject did have the highest levels of further study while working (13%), which is often undertaken in fields such as sports physiotherapy or sports psychology.
Unemployment, including those due to start work, for all science graduates remained low, ranging from a maximum of 6.7% for biology graduates, through to just 3.5% for sports science graduates.
Physics graduates commanded the highest salaries for science graduates (£30,691), followed closely behind by chemistry graduates (£27,661). Sports science graduates had the lowest average starting salary of (£23,527). Biology graduates’ average salary 15 months after graduation (£25,975) was comparable with those of physical and geographical sciences (£26,293).
Science graduates are in demand in sectors that seek to solve some of the biggest challenges that we face, such as human healthcare and environmental degradation.
IT jobs were the top destination for physics graduates, with 28% of them entering this industry. Another 21% went into roles classified as business, HR and finance, which were also popular destination for those who studied physical and geographical science (21%). Physics graduates are also in demand across critical industries, such as engineering, construction, manufacturing, energy and transport, as well as in health, and the public sectors. This reflects the numeracy and technical skills that this group gain from studying physics and explains their overall higher average salary, as these sectors often attract higher salaries. Meanwhile, 10% to 14% of biology, chemistry, physics, and physical and geographical sciences graduates entered the education sector, but this rose to 29% for sports science graduates.
Chemistry graduates had the highest percentage going into science-based occupations, 36.7%, reflecting the diversity of scientific organisations and sectors that value chemistry as a first degree. They were also more likely to enter manufacturing and R&D than other graduates. Biology graduates also had a high percentage (23%) going into scientific roles, where they can use the scientific knowledge they have gained during their degree. This is likely to reflect the strength of the life sciences sector in the UK, which generates a wide range of products, from pharmaceuticals to medical devices, through to consumer health.
Far fewer physics graduates moved into scientific roles (9%), while IT proved the most popular destination for physics graduates, with 28% of them entering this industry.
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