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Choosing a university course: five career factors to consider

We asked this year’s university applicants which specific career factors were most important to them when it came to deciding on a course...

Is your main reason for going to university to boost your employment prospects? Six in 10 of this year’s applicants told us it was. Here they reveal their top five career factors that were most important to them, along with some tips on how to make sure you find your ideal course make sure you also read the full report on how 2014's uni applicants made their choices

1. Graduate employment rates

Graduate employment rates was the top career consideration for this year's uni applicants when choosing a course 58% told us it was important.

The graduate employment rates you'll see on our course pages on Which? University will tell you the percentage of students who are employed or in further study up to six months after graduating.

Tip: remember these stats are recorded after six months. Just because graduates didn't find paid work straight away maybe they were travelling or doing work experience, for example - doesn't mean they never will.

It's also worth noting that 'employed' doesn't always mean being in a 'graduate' job. Have a look at the types of jobs that graduates go into for a fuller picture.


2. Links between the university and employers

Links between universities and employers was next on uni applicants’ priority list – 50% said that it was an important factor in their decision-making.

While some universities are well linked with certain vocational industries or employers, other universities – such as those in the Russell Group - are often recognised for their academic research and teaching style. 

Tip: don’t apply to a university based on academic reputation alone. When you're on a university open day, speak to staff about how connected the department is with graduate employers locally or with specific industries as a whole.


3. Reputation for a certain vocation or degree

A university's reputation for offering top degrees in a particular field or vocation was another key consideration for applicants - four in 10 said it was important.

Some universities may rank highly in the various league tables for a particular subject area  though others could be well-regarded by employers in specific areas, but not feature in the upper reaches of  the tables. Chat to a careers adviser or your subject teacher to get any insider tips or recommendations on this.

Tip: don’t apply to a course based on its reputation alone. Make sure you go an open day and suss out for yourself what it is that's special about the course.  


4. Starting salaries for graduates

Though cited less than graduate employment rates, 30% of applicants told us they factored graduate starting salaries into their decision-making. 

The average graduate salaries displayed on our course pages reveal what graduates who previously studied that subject went on to earn six months after graduating - and whether that figure was high, typical or low compared to graduates of the same subject at other universities. 

Tip: as with graduate employment rates, these stats only tell you so much see them as a six month snapshot and not an indication of your long-term earning potential. But if there is a significant difference in this figure between similar courses, it could be worth querying with the university why this might be.  

5. Whether there was a sandwich year option

Sandwich year options were important to a quarter of applicants. If you study a sandwich course, you'll have the opportunity to complete a six- to 12-month work placement while you're at university, giving you vital real-world training (and maybe a foot in the door with an employer if you manage to impress during your time there). 

You can search specifically for courses with work placements right here on Which? University. 

Tip: completing a work placement as part of your degree could give you an edge over other graduates when applying for jobs. Here's more advice on what employers think about sandwich courses


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