Career Opportunities

If you know what you want to do after university your degree subject ought to provide a suitable basis for that career.

  • The choice may be wider than you think, as approximately 50% of graduate level jobs do not specify any particular degree subject.
  • Instead a graduate needs to signpost the skills, knowledge and experience they have gained from their degree.
  • A narrow and highly vocational course could restrict your career options if you subsequently change your mind about the direction you wish to follow.

For many professional subjects, such as engineering, psychology or architecture the course may be accredited by a professional body or institute.

  • You will usually need to have followed an accredited course and an accreditation process if you want to continue with the subject as your chosen career.

Students often refer to employment prospects when they are asked about why they chose their course. It is worth looking at the statistics. 

  • What do graduates do? gives the percentages of graduates who, six months after graduation, obtained a graduate job (i.e. one which normally recruits graduates), went on to further study, obtained a job but one that does not normally recruit graduates or who were unemployed.
  • The unemployment rate varies from 0 % (dentistry and medicine) to 15% (computer science) but for most subjects is within the range 8–12%.
  • In other words, for most subjects the chances of getting a job are about the same.
  • Interestingly, business and management studies, a subject that is often considered to be highly employable, comes out in the middle at around 11%. 

The picture becomes more varied when you look at the proportions that obtain a graduate-level job.

  • Some subjects, such as dentistry and nursing, do more or less guarantee a graduate-level job with more than 88% of graduates obtaining one.
  • However, there are a number of subjects where over 30% of graduates are in non-graduate jobs after six months.
  • The proportion entering further study also varies considerably, usually because of the normal career paths followed by graduates. Over half of law graduates go on to further study because that is necessary to qualify for a career within the legal profession.
  • Some courses may be tailored towards specific careers and achieve a very high level of employability, but conversely may be seen as too specialised if you try for an alternative career.
  • Taking a sandwich course, placement year or year abroad may improve your chances of finding graduate level employment quickly after graduation.

Also, the longer-term career prospects may be better than the figures for six months after graduation.

  • One study showed that the proportion of graduates in a non-graduate job after four years was a third of the figure of those after just six months, i.e. employment prospects improved markedly over time.
  • Design Studies and Fine Art graduates, for example, often take longer to establish their careers than those in some other disciplines.

One reason for some similarity in employment prospects is the point mentioned above, that a significant proportion of job vacancies do not specify any subject at all.

  • You can take the most obscure subject on the UCAS website and still have over 50% of job vacancies available to you.
  • Degree class is also important: students with first-class honours are less likely to be unemployed, whatever subject they studied, unless they truly have nothing else to offer an employer alongside their good degree marks.
  • There is evidence of some major companies targeting 20–30 UK Universities for their graduate schemes but blue-chip companies only account for a small percentage of graduate jobs available.

Take a look at our Career and company case studies.