What Do Graduates Do? 2018

18 October 2018

Graduate unemployment rate lowest in 39 years as skills shortages boost prospects.

Key findings from the report: Graduate unemployment rate fell to 5.1%, Salaries increase 2.9%, 7,895 more graduates in professional roles.

The unemployment rate for graduates six months after leaving university fell to 5.1% this year – the lowest since 1977 when it was 4.9%. 

Analysis in What do graduates do? 2018 reports a robust graduate labour market.

Employment increased from 74.2% to 76.6% (184,295) as 4,540 more graduates found jobs compared to last year. The proportion of employed graduates in professional-level roles also increased, from 71.4% to 73.9%.

WDGD? is a fantastic resource with valuable information to support students and graduates with plans to future proof themselves in a global economy, which is constantly changing.

Jane Howie, Chair of the AGCAS Education Liaison Task Group

Skills shortages across many industries appear to have helped job prospects with increases in those entering professional jobs across all degree subjects. More graduates qualified in high demand subjects, such as IT, engineering, accountancy and marketing, went into their vocationally linked roles as a result.

Changes to the balance of occupations could also be indicative of skills shortages with maths graduates working in IT and engineering over the more typical business services roles. There were also more physics graduates working in IT, and the marketing industry proved much more popular this year among geography and English graduates.

The skills shortage also appears to have impacted salaries as the average starting salary for graduates increased from £21,776 to £22,399 this year. All regions saw a rise, with the Midlands, East of England and Northern Ireland seeing the largest percentage increases.

Skills shortages have been a feature of the graduate labour market since the recovery from the last recession. There are signs that this may have helped to fuel a modest rise in salaries as well as job prospects.

Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Prospects

While there were more graduates on permanent, full-time contracts after six months (61.8%) and fixed-term contracts of at least 12 months held steady, there were increasing numbers on zero hours contracts – up to 4% of those employed, from 3.6% last year.

Retail employs the highest number of graduates in non-graduate roles. While 12.8% of graduates went to work in retail, around two-thirds of them were in jobs below professional level.

What do graduates do? is the result of close collaboration between AGCAS and the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU).

View this year's report