How your study choice can affect your career opportunities by Sophia Foster

Sophia Foster, an education correspondent who writes about figuring out if online graduate education is right for you, spends some time in the article below looking at how British university students can best maximise their chances for finding meaningful work in the still-recovering job market. Her ideas lend statistics and firm backing to a lot of the advice GO Wales Blog has offered in the past to graduates looking to make a favourable impression and launch their careers without delay.


Out of Graduate School and Into the Job Market

The economic recession has negatively affected job prospects across the globe. Great Britain is a nation that has witnessed particularly high unemployment rates in recent years, though these figures seem to be rebounding in certain professional fields as the global market recovers and more employers increase their hiring quotas. University students in the United Kingdom are today encouraged to pursue majors that will prepare them for careers in these fields, which include science/engineering, medicine/dentistry and business.

The Class of 2012 

Last summer, Guardian UK reported that the Class of 2012 stands to enter “arguably the most competitive jobs market ever”. In regard to graduate degree-holders, men and women who earned postgraduate certificates in education (PGCE) were most successful at locating long-term positions; nearly 90 percent had relevant jobs within six months of leaving school. Employment opportunities also abound for MBA holders, according to a survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council. That survey found 75 percent of respondents plan to hire business school graduates by the end of this year. Other graduates did not fare as well. By last year’s end, more than 18 percent of students who graduated within the previous two years were unemployed; this figure was down nearly two percentage points from 2010, but also represented an unemployment rate that has quadrupled since 2006. Furthermore, roughly one-third of recent graduates were forced to settle for “low-skill” jobs for which they were overqualified. A decade earlier, this figure stood at less than one-quarter.

Certain university disciplines have been linked to high entry-level wages. Those who studied medicine or dentistry earned a median hourly wage of roughly £21.29. Those who studied fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) also earned more than most of their peers, recording median entry-level wages of roughly £18.92  per hour. Physical or environmental sciences, business and education rounded out the list of professions with the highest entry-level wages. This poll was bolstered by a survey conducted by CareerCast, which found that the “best careers” for British graduates in 2012 were software engineer, actuary, human resources manager, dental hygienist and financial planner. As such, academic experts in Great Britain are urging students to pursue study programs that will ensure employments in these fields.

STEM and Business Sectors

Industrial growth in the United States and China, like in the United Kingdom, has been significant in the STEM and business sectors. According to Job Outlook 2013, a report compiled by the U.S.-based National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers plan to hire 13 percent more graduates next spring than students who completed college one year earlier. While increased hiring was reported across all sectors, students with “business, computer science, and engineering-related degrees” stood to receive the most job offers. In China, the e-commerce industry – an amalgam of business and technology-based practices – is predicted to grow by as much as 400 percent by 2015. Other sectors with strong projected growth in China included outstanding corporate bonds, life insurance, wealth management and personal computer sales.

However, a recent study by Legatum Institute, a think-tank headquartered in London, found that Great Britain’s job prospects were far worse than that of United States or China – or even Kuwait or Thailand. While prosperity in terms of happiness and wealth increased this year, lagging job security led to Great Britain’s 26th place ranking. “In order to ensure it remains competitive, keeping in step with its European neighbours, Britain must focus on growth without losing out in other areas,” said Legatum President Jeffrey Gedmin. Economic opportunity and governance are two such areas.


Thankfully for the British economy, widespread growth is projected in several sectors. In October 2012, CBI and Harvey Nash Employment Trends released a survey that suggests the scientific sector in Great Britain will continue to grow in the coming years. The poll, which surveyed more than 300 companies than employ roughly 1.4 million people, found that 35 percent of respondents plan to expand their operations within the next year, while 15 percent predicted lay-offs and roughly one-fifth expected a balanced workforce. The sector with the highest projected growth was science, technology and IT, with nearly half of respondents in this field expecting to create (rather than eliminate) entry-level positions. Furthermore, 22 percent of all graduates expect to create jobs specifically designated for recent university graduates – many of which exceed entry-level status. “Businesses are targeting their recruitment on professional, technical and managerial roles, highlighting the growing demand for higher-skilled individuals and the shift to a knowledge economy,” the survey said.

As industrial sectors in Great Britain continue to grow and more employment opportunities become available to graduates, that country’s economy stands to improve in the coming years. In order to ensure they have the best chances for post-university employment, however, British students are encouraged to choose a course of study that is relevant to the fastest-growing fields.