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Getting a graduate job: myths and realities

Finding a job and establishing yourself in a good career after your degree is no picnic, especially with the misconceptions out there. So what’s the truth about graduate employment?

We're taking a closer look at some of the myths of the grad jobs market, asking the graduate employment experts at HECSU what the reality is really like in the wider world of work. 

Plus, don't miss our tips on boosting your job prospects while you're at university.

Myth #1: Everyone has a degree nowadays

This is about the most common myth out there, usually followed with the idea that as a result, graduates can’t get jobs. It’s true that the amount of people going to university is increasing but, in reality, if you look at official statistics from the government’s Annual Population survey (2017), still only 40% of the UK adult population have a degree.

Myth #2: There are no graduate jobs

The whole of Which? University is full of employment data that proves this one wrong, but here are some simple facts:
  • in 2016, 88.0% and 87.3% of postgrads and grads were employed, respectively. In comparison, only 70.4% of non-grads were employed.
  • in 2016, the unemployment rate for non-graduates was 5.9%, double that of graduates at 2.9%.
  • employers expect to increase their graduate job vacancies by 11% in 2018
You can find out about the typical types of jobs that grads go into by taking a look at the employment summaries on our course pages

Myth #3: If you don't go to a Russell Group uni, you won't get a good job

It's certainly true that some employers prefer to recruit their graduates from a specific group of universities ,and that these will often – but not always – be Russell Group institutions. But this isn't the full story. Other factors are often at work, too – including local ties to nearby universities, or institutions with strong reputations in certain professional fields. And of course, sometimes it isn’t down to what uni you go to – if you are a strong candidate, it won’t matter.  

Myth #4: You only get graduate jobs via blue chip company training schemes

On the contrary, graduate vacancies in all different types of industries are increasing. Here are some reassuring stats from Higher Flyer research, which specialises in university and graduate research:

2016 was the fourth year in a row that graduate recruitment programmes had increased. Graduate vacancies increased in:
  • retailing (32.4%)
  • public sector (25.7%)
  • engineering and industrial (16.7%)
  • oil and energy (8.8%)
  • IT and telecoms (5.5%)
  • law (4.2%)

Myth #5: You'll need to do an unpaid internship

It is true that unpaid internships are still an issue, especially in certain sectors. Industries where unpaid interns are most common included design, publishing & media and advertising & PR. But in 2013, the annual graduate destinations survey asked graduates – directly – if they were employed as interns and whether they were paid. 4,520 first-degree graduates said they were working as interns and of those, 1,560 (0.6% of all graduates) reported that they were working as unpaid interns, with the majority in London.

However, don’t let this put you off. Yes, it’s a sobering thought; but it’s certainly not the case that you should be expected to do unpaid internships to get somewhere. Here are some reassuring stats: 
  • 90% of the country’s top graduate employers offered paid work experience programmes during the 16/17 academic year, providing a total of 13,917 places, according to High Fliers research.
  • graduate starting salaries at the UK’s leading graduate employers were expected to remain unchanged in 2017, from a median starting salary of £30,000. 

Myth #6: Doing a degree guarantees you a good job

Doing a degree never has, and never will, guarantee you a job – nothing does. Certainly, if you pass a medicine degree, you’ll almost certainly get a job in medicine. But in general, there’s never been a guarantee of a job. Some commentators hark back to a golden age when graduates all got jobs, but we have data going back several decades, and this never happened.

You’ll need to work hard, apply yourself – and have a little bit of luck – to get a good job after graduation. There are no guarantees, but the large majority of graduates ultimately make a good career, and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them.

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