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Will your Degree get you a Job?

Features writer, Sophie Chamberlain, discusses the state of graduate employment. 

What do you want to be when you grow up? This is one of the most common questions that everyone gets asked from  a very young age. You can probably remember the answers you may have said or heard at that age, ranging from being a fireman, doctor, policeman, princess or power ranger. The answer to this question tends to change over your lifespan; I know my answer has changed considerably from “a vet” at the age of about seven years old before I found out the ‘ins-and-outs’ of the job. Subsequently, my decision moved from being a teacher to a magazine editor to a speech and language therapist to the point where I am now: I have no idea. So ‘indecisive’ is probably an understatement for me when it comes to what I want to be when I grow up, and it hasn’t gotten any easier.

The luxury we had as five year olds with a whole world of different career possibilities has shrunk considerably and now it’s not so much ‘what we want to do’ as whether we actually get a job when we finish our degree. A day hardly goes by without the mention of the fact that it’s almost impossible to get a job in today’s employment climate. This inevitably makes every student question whether they should even be spending a massive amount of money for a degree which could actually turn out to be worthless. An article in The Independent has set out statistics showing just how many graduates obtained a job in their relevant field of work in 2008.

According to these statistics, you are more likely to get a job if you have a degree in Middle Eastern & African Studies, with 36% of graduates obtaining a job, than if you have a degree in something like English or Psychology, both with only 29%. Professions such as Dentistry or Medicine rank the highest with 83% and 87%, while Law ranks the lowest with only 20%. So according to these statistics, if you’re a Law student, only 20% of you and your fellow classmates will get a job in that field when you graduate; but if you plan to be a doctor or a dentist then you’ll be fine! I’m not going to say whether these statistics are right or wrong, or whether I agree or not but I will definitely say that I find them more than a little shocking!

With only 150,000 graduate level jobs available each year and 333,000 students ready to graduate this year, I wanted to look into all the different opportunities people take after the big step of graduating university from travelling the world, diving straight into a job, or taking a further degree to better their chances of getting a job.

When landed with the choice of making endless amounts of CV’s, applying for what seems like a million jobs or sitting on a Thai beach sipping a cocktail in the warm Asian climate, it’s no wonder that many graduates decide to take off to a sunnier setting whilst working out what they want to do with the rest of their life. It may seem like you’re shooting yourself in the foot by spending yet more money on going abroad after university, but with the job opportunities in bars, restaurants and other tourist attractions, it appears to be quite a simple solution to the waiting game of the perfect job opening.

If jetting off to the other side of the world doesn’t seem like your sort of thing, many graduates are doing a post-graduate degree or an entirely new degree altogether in order to improve their chances of employment. The most popular Masters in the UK are business and management courses. However, a MA costs considerably more than an undergraduate course does. Some look at this as an investment in their future and decide to save on as many costs as possible and live at home whilst doing their post-graduate course. 40,000 UK students embark on a Master’s degree every year; many are probably more than content to stay a student for that little bit longer. It’s another great way to postpone the moment you have to look for a job, or if you need just a little bit more time to work out exactly what you want to do. [pullquote]

Medicine: 87%

Dentistry: 83%

Economics: 42%

Law: 20%

French: 40%

Sociology: 30%

English: 29%

Geography: 34%

Source: The Independent

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A thread on thestudentroom.co.uk features a question by a student basically asking fellow students to state what they are doing/what they want to do after university. The student who posted the question is likely to be in their last year as they say it’s now hitting them that the end of university is in sight and a range of replies have been posted. Many state that they are going to do a postgraduate course or a Master’s, one replying that they’d rather get it out of the way whilst they’re still in “the education rhythm”. Some write jovial comments such as simply “celebrate” or share their plans to burn all of their lecture notes in “one epic bonfire”. Another has written that they want to move abroad, enjoy their youth and start a graduate career in their mid to late twenties.

My favourite answer from this thread is “I’ll just go with the flow and see where life leads me”. This is mainly due to the fact that I still don’t know what I want to do when I finish university, but I look forward to the possibilities that the future will bring. The huge amount of societies and clubs you can join may also push you in the direction of a career. Or a specific module you take on your course might just  make you realise what you have always wanted to do.

So figures may claim to tell you that one degree will be more likely to get you a job than another, but these statistics change from year to year and don’t show what the other percentage of students do with their life. Sure, a degree is not what everyone needs for a job and for many, university is not for them. But I do think university brings so many more opportunities than just a certificate at the end of it all.

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