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August 2012

Good job you went to Uni

By | Coaching in Education

As this year’s freshers eagerly await the start of university, Natalie Lancer looks at the facts and figures about their employment prospects.

Every year, the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) collate the results from a government survey which asks graduates about their current employment. The latest (2011) edition of ‘What Do Graduates Do?’ provides a snapshot of how graduates from 2010 were employed six months after graduation.

Of the 233,865 graduates who responded to the survey, 9% were unemployed and 60% were in UK employment (including anything from a temporary to a graduate job).  The majority of graduates outside those two categories were continuing their studies.

The six graduate subjects yielding the highest employment rates (percentages shown in brackets) were: Marketing (71%), Media Studies (66%), Art and Design (66%), Business and Management (65%), Architecture (64%) and Sociology (64%). These data remain largely unchanged since 2008, with the exception that Engineering graduates have fallen out of the top six.

Many graduates go on to further study to help secure a job. For graduates seeking employment in the science sector, a Master’s degree increases employment prospects significantly, explaining the absence of Science subjects in the list above. In fact, 18% of Biology graduates, 27% of Chemistry graduates and 29% of Physics graduates went on to study a Masters or PhD on completion of their first degree. Furthermore, to practise as a lawyer or barrister, it is necessary to undergo further training.  Although only 38% of Law graduates were in employment six months after graduating, 26% remained in education, the largest number of non-Science graduates undertaking further study. The discipline with the highest number of graduates studying for for a teaching qualification was Mathematics (8%). Although Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science are not listed as separate subjects, data from HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) shows that 99% of graduates from these disciplines were in employment or further study, sixth months after completion of their undergraduate degree (2010-11 data set).

As well as the importance of degree subject, the university you attend also enhances employment prospects. According to the High Fliers survey 2012, the top ten universities most targeted by employers are Manchester, London, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford, Bristol, Warwick, Durham, Birmingham and Bath (in that order). Employers often exhibit at careers fairs or ‘milkrounds’ at universities, aimed at students in their penultimate or final year, to attract top calibre applicants. In addition, your degree classification is paramount. According to the High Fliers survey, seven out of ten employers require a 2:1 or above.

So what can you do to maximise your employment prospects? Apart from securing a place at a well-respected university and working towards obtaining a least a 2:1, it is important to find work experience. Many employers recruit for work placements a year before the intended start date, so do your research early. You may have to do some on-line aptitude tests which you can practise using widely-available books. You can improve your performance by analysing your answers with an adviser.

Other companies operate a less formal work experience programme, where speculative applications may result in successful outcomes. For this, you will need to send in a CV and a covering letter explaining why you would like to do work experience at the company and what you can offer them. These documents need to be well-prepared and drafting them with the help of a professional may prove to be money well spent.

There are various websites that also can help you find work experience, including and Perhaps the most successful way to get work experience is to network. Make sure you swap details with family friends, as well as any speakers and lecturers you meet and ask about any opportunities they may know about. Contact the development office from your school or university who will put you in touch with relevant alumni, who will often go that extra mile to help you. You should also visit your university’s Careers Service which will have its own connections for you to explore.

Getting involved in committees, from fundraising to sports, or getting a part time job whilst at school and university, will develop and demonstrate valuable skills, enhancing your employment prospects further.

In order to be offered a place at a good university initially, you need good grades at A-level and an excellent personal statement (part of the UCAS form). The personal statement should reflect the level of commitment and interest you have in your proposed course.  For example, you should detail relevant books read, lectures attended and work experience or voluntary work undertaken. Since most universities no longer interview applicants, more importance has been placed on the personal statement. It must convey your qualities and interests in a succinct way.

Natalie is the founder of She can discuss your university and career options in one-to-one sessions and give you expert guidance on personal statements, interviews and CVs.

For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at

Natalie’s Top tips for increasing your employment prospects:

  • Think about your career goals and discuss options with a professional
  • Get involved with activities at school and university that will develop important skills
  • Organise work experience
  • Update your CV and draft a covering letter
  • Practise aptitude tests and analyse your performance with an adviser