plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

March 1, 2009

university graduates, jobs and prestige

Filed under: education and career — Tags: , , , , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

Ok, so there’s a recession on at the minute, which means that there are fewer jobs and higher unemployment than in a boom time. I’m sitting watching the news and there’s a fairly long piece about people graduating from university, particularly newer and less prestigious universities, finding it difficult to get exciting graduate jobs.

Is there supposed to be some kind of surprise about this?

graduate destinations

Around 300,000 people graduate each year and there are apparently about 30,000 vacancies in major companies’ graduate training schemes. Which means that 90% of graduates don’t take these sorts of jobs. On the other hand, a year or so ago I read some research that said that within 2 years of graduating well over 95% of graduates had found suitable employment.

People have never mostly taken jobs marketed directly at graduates when leaving university. One of my brother’s (who has a degree from a redbrick university) has worked since leaving university for an organisation with an official graduate training scheme. He wasn’t on it though, and neither were most of the people in the place. Starting on the graduate scheme would have given him a bit of a head start, but after a few years it doesn’t seem to make too much difference.

no one cares about your degree

I’m not sure whether I’m the only person that’s noticed this phenomenon. A few years after you got your qualifications, fine distinctions don’t matter so much. I have GCSEs, A-Levels and a degree. Several years after finishing university, no one cares whether I got a first, or a third, or whether my A-Level results were AABB or BCDD. The work that I’ve done in my job is much more important.

There’s often an argument that some subjects are more useful than others. It’s certainly true that some degrees lead more obviously into specific careers but that doesn’t mean that other subjects are worthless. If you do an unusual degree (golf course management, say) then it might give you a nice hook at the interview – of course your overall application needs to sell your suitability for a job, but it’s good to have something that makes you memorable.

is study worth it?

Is it worth getting a degree? Probably. Graduates earn more than non-graduates on average. Study improves your mind, you can develop transferable skills as well as specific knowledge. Of course your always going to get out what you put in, but there are plenty of ways to put in.

Is it important to do a traditional subject at an older university? I don’t think so. I think it’s important to study something you are interested in, preferably with half an eye on whether you would enjoy the sorts of jobs that it tends to lead to. I think it’s important to go to the university with the *best fit* which is a combination of location, cost, prestige, and other intangible factors. When I was at school, I wouldn’t have considered a *new university* but I certainly wouldn’t discriminate against an applicant from one, because I have learned that it’s not all that important.

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