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For teachers

Which degrees are in demand?

Which degree subjects are in most demand from employers - and what jobs can they lead to? Our labour market expert reveals all.

Advising students on their future prospects needs a good understanding of the employment market. The graduate jobs market in the UK is a diverse one with an extremely wide range of opportunities. Many jobs for graduates do not specify a degree discipline and are open to graduates from any subject as a result.

Of course, there are some roles that do need specialist training – doctors, dentists and engineers are good examples. For others, the needs for particular abilities means that jobs usually go to graduates with specific degrees, such as areas of the creative industries and the arts.

So some degrees are in more demand than others – but which ones? We've analysed the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education Survey.

Clinical medicine

  • How many degrees were awarded to UK citizens in 2015? 5,325
  • What proportion were in work after six months? 99%
  • Average salary after six months? £27,500 to £31,000
  • Explore in detail: medicine degree guide
Why is it in demand? We always need doctors, and they are in demand across the health sector. The number of university places available is designed to be linked directly to workforce needs. Almost all graduates get jobs in medicine, and ordinarily you can't get a job in the field without a medical degree – although graduates from other disciplines can take postgraduate conversion courses.

Clinical dentistry

  • How many degrees were awarded to UK citizens in 2015? 1,035
  • What proportion were in work after six months? 98%
  • Average salary after six months? £29,500 to £30,500
  • Explore in detail: dentistry degree guide
Why is it in demand? Like medicine, the number of university places available is designed to be linked directly to workforce needs. This is also a field with demand (albeit for fewer graduates), and where ordinarily you can't get a job without the right degree.

Nursing

  • How many degrees were awarded to UK citizens in 2015? 17,750 (across all specialities)
  • What proportion were in work after six months? 96%
  • Average salary after six months? £21,800 to £22,300
  • Explore in detail: nursing degree guide
Why is it in demand? Nursing places are also designed to be linked directly to workforce needs, and so almost all nursing graduates get jobs in nursing. But we also have a significant – and increasing – shortage of nurses, and employers reported that they had difficulty filling the majority of vacancies for nurses in 2015. There doesn't look to be any likelihood of a reduced demand for nurses in the near future, so this will remain an excellent choice for employability.

Engineering

  • How many degrees were awarded to UK citizens in 2015? 14,995 (across all specialities)
  • What proportion were in work after six months? 78%, with a further 10% taking higher postgraduate degrees
  • Average salary after six months? £19,500 to £30,000 depending on field and where you might work
  • Explore in detail: aerospace, civil, chemicalelectrical and mechanical engineering degree guides

Why is it in demand? Most degrees in this industry are in high demand because we simply don't have enough engineers in a lot of areas. Civil engineers, mechanical engineers (particularly in vehicle and aerospace manufacture), design engineers, production engineers in manufacturing, and more junior technician jobs, are reported by employers as being particularly hard to find.

It's important to remember that engineering jobs are not spread equally around the country and are not always in the large cities that many other graduate jobs are found in. Graduates may have to travel or move to get the best jobs, but the rewards in terms of salary and career progression are often worth it. The engineering industry is particularly keen to recruit women at the moment – but that doesn't mean men will lose out, as in most areas there are enough vacancies for good graduates.

Building, architecture, planning

  • How many degrees were awarded to UK citizens in 2015? 6,810 (across all specialities)
  • What proportion were in work after six months? 86%, with a further 5% taking higher postgraduate degrees
  • Average salary after six months? £16,500 to £25,000 depending on field and where you might work
  • Explore in detail: building, architecture and planning degree guides
Why is it in demand? Some of the roles that these degrees lead to are currently in great demand. Architectural technicians, town planning and property management are all roles which employers report as being hard to fill. However, some of those technician jobs are paid towards the lower end of the scale, which can be a reason why employers struggle to recruit for them.

The main reason we mention these degrees is because they produce some of the most in-demand graduates of all. Employers in 2015 repeatedly named surveying as one of their hardest positions to fill – there just do not seem to be enough qualified surveyors to go round at the moment. The construction industry is vulnerable to changes in the economy – it suffered particularly badly during the recession – but at present, training as a surveyor looks like a good bet for a well-paid career.

Marketing and PR

  • How many degrees were awarded to UK citizens in 2015? 4,860 (across all specialities)
  • What proportion were in work after six months? 85%, with a further 3% taking higher postgraduate degrees
  • Average salary after six months? £18,000 to £23,000 depending on field and where you might work
  • Explore in detail: marketing and PR degree guides
Why is it in demand? This might seem an unexpected addition to the list, but not all high-demand degrees are in science and technology. The facts are simple. Last year we produced 4,860 graduates in marketing and PR, but over 6,300 graduates started in marketing roles alone.

The UK – particularly London – is a global centre of marketing excellence; the industry was barely affected by the recession, and the expansion of digital technology has made the whole area tremendously broad. You can use your marketing degree to get a tech-oriented job in digital media, to get data-driven jobs in market research or analytics, to run social media campaigns or in more traditional roles in the advertising industry. And any degree that teaches you how to understand and influence behaviour is valuable to all sorts of business so marketing graduates are found in all parts of the economy.

Computing and IT

  • How many degrees were awarded to UK citizens in 2015? 12,680 (across all specialities)
  • What proportion were in work after six months? 79%, with a further 7% taking higher postgraduate degrees
  • Average salary after six months? £19,000 to £27,700 depending on field and where you might work
  • Explore in detail: computer science degree guide
Why is it in demand? We need a lot of good computing graduates – over 8,300 graduates are known to have been in jobs as programmers, technicians and so on six months after they graduated last year. They're also in demand in other roles, such as business analysis, graphic and web design, management consultancy and project management. And software developers and programmers appear this year – as they always appear – in the list of jobs employers find hardest to fill. And yet, these subjects also have an unusually high unemployment rate, and have had for years.

This mix of high demand and high unemployment is odd enough that the Government commissioned an enquiry into why that is. It found that there is such a wide range of degrees and employer requirements that it’s sometimes difficult to match one with the other, and that the best way to fix that problem was with work experience. So students should get work experience under their belt and polish their coding skills, along with communication and personal skills.

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