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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Graduates 'face tougher job market'
Graduates
Lucky graduates will get on average £20,300 this year

This year's university graduates are facing a tougher job market, according to a new survey.

Research by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) - which predominantly represents large blue chip firms and public sector employers - indicates there are 3.4% fewer graduate vacancies this year than last.

However, the AGR survey said graduate recruitment was "nowhere near a crisis comparable to the situation in the early 90s".

But while competition for jobs has intensified, those who are finding work are earning more, with average starting salaries for graduates who are offered jobs breaking the £20,000 barrier this year.

Intense competition

Employers received an average of 42.1 applications for every graduate vacancy during the past year, up from 37.2 in 2001-02.

It is important that those graduating this summer do not lose their nerve
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR

Over the last 15 years, graduate starting salaries have more than doubled.

And this year the average graduate starting salary has climbed to £20,300, an above inflation rise of 4.1% compared with 2002.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said: "This survey shows that graduate level vacancies are stabilising somewhat - the modest falls in vacancies this year and last need to be balanced against the large rises we saw in previous years."

"It is important that those graduating this summer do not lose their nerve."

While 42% of employers surveyed by AGR reported a drop in a vacancies, the outlook is more encouraging than this would suggest.

More than one third have recruited more graduates this year, and a further 22% said they were recruiting the same number as last year.

The level of recruitment across different sectors reflected changes in the economy.

Some, such as construction and transport and logistics, have been expanding their intake, but others, including investment banking and oil companies, have cut back.

Degree benefits

One in five employers are offering starting salaries of £25,000 or more for 2003 graduates.

While it may not always be easy for graduates to get their dream job soon after leaving university, AGR said a degree would greatly increase earning power.

For example, graduates who joined employers who were members of AGR and started work in 2002 are now being paid £22,100 on average, while those who started work three years ago are receiving an average of £27,000.

Graduate recruits who started working in 1998, meanwhile, now earn £32,700 on average.

Employers are predicting a stable outlook for 2004.

Seventeen per cent of employers are predicting increased levels of recruitment, with 42% expecting no change, and just 14% forecasting a decrease.


Your comments:

I'm the Editor of Prospects Today - a weekly graduate recruitment magazine. In focusing on the AGR, this article fails to paint the whole picture. AGR represent the big companies who recruit graduates but according to the Institute for Employment Studies less than 20% of graduates go on to high-flyer graduate schemes. This may be due to fierce competition - around 40 applications per post - or simply because not everyone wants to work in the roles offered by blue chips. The most popular areas graduates of 2003 wanted to go into according to a the recent UK Graduate Careers Survey were found in Retail, media, marketing and teaching. Those online readers who have expressed disappointment in the graduate job market are certainly not alone. The Survey found that 85% of graduates of 2003 believed there weren't enough graduate jobs. But herein lies the problem. A lot of the literature on the subject of graduate jobs (ourselves included) are guilty of over hyping the blue-chip job market when in actual fact a graduate job is any job a graduate does. Graduates should therefore look not only at big companies but beyond the blue chips and the graduate recruitment schemes to other areas of work; Niche industries, public sector and the 3.7 million small business in the UK who collectively employ 12 million people. What is important for graduates looking for jobs is not that they get a 'graduate job' but they get a job that matches their skills attributes and ambitions with a job and a company regardless of size or brand name.
Jamie Murphy, Editor, Prospects Today, England

I graduated this year and was avidly searching for jobs in my last semester. Unfortunately, even after completing over 20 application forms, I have not got a job. I attended several assessment centres, and I have got to admit that the competition was immense. It is very demotivating when time after time firms feel me not to be good enough for them. It is also quite frustrating because I am sure that I like a lot of my fellow graduates know for sure that the job they have applied for, they could do successfully. Well good luck to all you graduates, hopefully I'll be joining you lucky ones soon!!
Sharan Kandola, England

I wish I'd become a plumber...
Rachel, Scotland

I have absolutely no idea where these companies get their figures from at all. I graduated in 1999 and joined a Graduate training scheme. Realising I rushed into work and wanted to do some travelling first, I left in 2001. Since then I have failed to find another "graduate job" and am now stuck in a call centre on £12,000 a year despite having gained a 2:1 from one of the countries main universities. According to the figures I should be on about £28,000 and so should most people I graduated with. I can tell you this is complete nonsense. For some this is maybe true, but for most I would have dispute this "research". My advise to those thinking about university, only do it if you are sure you know what to do. Otherwise, financially you would be much better of learning a skill that is in demand, e.g. become a plumber.
Ian, England

I am a University careers Adviser and I am afraid your article only gives half the story. Sure the AGR survey shows high graduate salaries but that is only for graduates joining blue chip companies in the AGR, most graduates don't. In reality most graduates join small/medium-sized companies who are not in the AGR. 70 of the graduates in my University go to work for education/local government. Let's be more honest and stop pretending all graduates get huge starting salaries, those who go to Oxford, Durham, and Cambridge might but the vast majority don't. Probably the AGR member companies employ 15% of graduates. Real starting salaries for graduates from "new Univs are more like 14-17K. Yours sincerely David Trought Head of Careers at a new university.
David Trought, England

I graduated in 2001 and earning less than £14,000 a year, I was very disheartened by the whole process, unless you can prove your leadership skills you have no chance, I have applied for 3 graduate programmes and did not even get invited for interview, the competition is tough and I am now planning on returning to college in September to retrain as a legal executive. What a waste of 3 years!!!!!!!!
Fiona Macleod, UK

If this is true, then how come I, as a graduate in IT, had to fight, and fight hard to secure a position doing maintenance donkey work?
Dan C, Wakefield, UK

Graduated in BSc Hons Computer Communication in 2001, still unable to find a graduate position related to my degree. Recently just read an article in a computing magazine the government issued over 22,000 work permits to overseas people for IT positions, that's just shocking. At the moment I have been in a call centre for over a year, where I'm not utilising or gaining any skills. Anybody out there Recruiting?
Ali, UK

I graduated last year and, despite having a First in Physics, have only had one interview out of many applications. I fortunately have a job, but am trying to find another as I am going nowhere in this one.
Luke, Wilts,UK

Perhaps rather than careers advice at school we should now be receiving 'salary advice' and tailoring students career choices to the standard of living they project they would like to have. you want to live in London, you need an IT degree. Live in the North, try a degree in teaching.
Steve, UK

The figures quoted for average salaries are nowhere near those I and others I graduated with are currently receiving. We all get a lot less, and I know many graduates who are either unemployed, doing low paid low skilled jobs and are struggling to pay debts and basically struggling to get on with their lives. Whoever does this research and generates these 'average salary' figures are clearly not talking to 'average' graduates, and are probably targeting those working in accountancy firms or the city. I'd like to see the figures they'd come up with if they spoke to nurses, social workers, and other government/civil service employees who are graduates....they would see a very different picture and draw a very different conclusion.
Phil, UK

I have found it very difficult to find a job this year with companies either closing their graduate scheme down part way through the recruitment process or just not getting back in touch with us once we have submitted an application. In addition companies have been turning away what would seem like good candidates for positions only to have to advertise the position again. Thankfully I did a one year placement as part of my degree and due to my performance during that year was re-employed on a permanent basis. Many of my friends have no job offer having now graduated from university.
Daniel , UK

As a history graduate I am eking a minimal wage in the public sector as a Personal Secretary hoping to move into a more lucrative position internally. I know I could earn more money as a career or even a waitress, but that would make my four-year MA degree redundant. Having lived and worked in the USA for a couple of years I know that the UK job market is a poorly paid shambles with 100+ applicants for every semi-decent job. I wish I'd become a plumber...
Rachel, Scotland

I've just graduated with a good grade from Cambridge University. You'd think finding a job was a piece of cake, wouldn't you?
Jennifer Lees, UK

As a scientific researcher I can only express surprise at the details published concerning graduate salaries. Those of us in within science would be hard pressed to be earning above the average quoted even after completing a PhD.
Michael Loughlin, UK

I have been working for four years after completing an undergrad degree and then a post grad degree. I have been made redundant twice and this is my fourth year consequently. I now earn less than what I did three years ago because the job market is very tough and the wages are a lot less than down South. I really have to chuckle when I read figures like the average starting graduate salary is a little over £20,000. This is my fourth year of working and I now earn less than this...
Sonia , Scotland

I graduated in 2000 with a degree in IT. My starting salary was £12,000 when I started work in 2001. In now earn £15,750 which I think is awful. Others I know that didn't go to university are earning more than me which makes me wonder why it is I bothered to go to university at all, I have debt of about 10k despite working all the way through uni and now cant afford to pay them back so they keep gaining interest. I get really annoyed when people come out with these figures saying graduates earn more..blah blah because at the moment I cant see any value of being a graduate.
SH, North Wales, UK

Graduates earning more than £20,000?! I graduated last year and it took me 9 months to find a graduate position and I earn no way near that much.
A, UK

I've just graduated with a good grade from Cambridge University. You'd think finding a job was a piece of cake, wouldn't you? Over the course of the year I received three offers from four applications, and happened to choose one that was later withdrawn. None of the others will take me, and I'm forced to the latecomers' milk round; it's looking like I'll have to take a low-paid junior role instead of the management trainee job I wanted. This is due in part to a cutback in the IT sector; my degree is in computer science, and unless they need programmers, nobody wants to know. Wish me luck...
Jennifer Lees, UK

I think the media distorts the truth about finding jobs after University, as it is not easy and when you are looking at paying off students debts as well. I believe many students are told by their Uni's what sort of salaries they should be looking for when leaving, but I don't think that realistic careers advice is being given - I certainly never received any and spent most of my final year in the careers department. I believe a lot of students are very naive about the working world when they leave uni and it is simply the minority who are earning big money. Figure like those just published make the rest of us feel like failures
Rachel, UK

It's difficult out there because it's an employers market. Increasingly tougher minimum requirements to initially sift graduates are daunting. This can be detrimental to morale, feeling precluded from the ideal job. It took me 6 months of determined job hunting to eventually get what I was looking for. All I can say to those who are still hunting is remain determined and consider alternatives.
Andrew Ross, Edinburgh, Scotland

What's important is your attitude to finding a job.
Terry Stebbens, UK

I graduated in 2001 and myself plus some of my university friends are earning nowhere near the average stated of between £22,000 - £27,000!! Where are they getting these figures from?????
Ian Godsell, Wales

So many graduates come out of university without any work experience at all. I've been working since 2000 in London and seem to have a good salary according to your figures. I opted to do a year out between university to work for a large multinational which gave me a huge head start on all the other graduates finishing at the same time as me. I didn't go travelling because I wanted to get in with a good company and kick start my career off, but since have been lucky enough to see all the countries I'd have wanted to on expenses! My advice would be...don't bum around, and get some experience under your belt.
Edward, UK

Well I can tell you that as a small software company, paying a new graduate money like that would be completely out of the question. Even £12K at the moment is a huge investment from a small company. Most of my friends, in their late 20s with years of experience, are earning around about what this survey claim new graduates are getting!
Rob, Scotland

The recruitment shortage has also made it incredibly difficult for extremely good students to find penultimate year summer placements. These candidates are likely to miss out later on in the application process as recruiters are only interested in students with previous internship experience. The shortage in the investment banking sector has created a vicious circle where those without summer experience find it even harder to get a foot in the door.
Hussein, Great Britain

When I graduated with a 3rd back in 1996 I completed over 180 job applications in one month to which I got three replies. I started working 2 months after graduating and my starting salary was £15,000pa. working for a very small (25 staff) company. That was the natural average graduate starting salary in that year. The point is that the high paying jobs ARE out there for graduates and it doesn't really matter what grade you got or what University you went to. What's important is your attitude to finding a job. Quite frankly, sending out 20 applications and then moaning about not having a job is laughable.
Terry Stebbens, UK

I graduated in 1999 with a 2:1 in Modern Languages and started work earning £13,000 in a small market research company. After six months I moved to live and work in Italy where I probably earn about £11,000 working in the editorial sector. However, considering the cost of living, I am much better off than my friends earning £20,000 in London, and regularly eat out, travel and treat myself shopping! I now want to return to the UK to work and have so far been offered jobs ranging from £11,000 to £15,000. I have even been told that I "won't find better"! So where are all these jobs offering £28,000?!
Karen, UK

I graduated in computing last year with first class honours and didn't start looking for a job straight away as I had other commitments. When I did eventually start looking I applied for over 300 jobs during a 5 month period, eventually got my first interview and got the job starting at 25k (in London) last April. The graduate job market certainly isn't easy in my experience. I thought I'd be ok as I had done a one year industrial placement but this proved not to be the case.
Will, UK

The fact is there are not enough jobs, let alone graduate jobs, for all those coming out with university degrees. On the one hand there are over 40 applicants for every graduate job and on the other 'non-graduate' jobs don't want you as you are seen as overqualified and therefore unlikely to stay with the company. Yet the Government wants even more young people coming out with degrees! Where are the jobs going to come from?
Helen, York, UK

I graduated with a BA Honours in 2002 and have been stuck in a £10K per annum job since then, despite sending out a huge amount of applications for every job under the sun. Most of those people I know who dropped out of University now earn significantly more than me. If anyone knows where these £20K+ graduate jobs are, I'd love to find out!
Joe, Loughborough, UK

The 'average graduate' surveys always make me chuckle. I'm not sure where AGR got their research results, but it must've been through a clown sized pair of rose tinted spectacles to surmise that the average student drops straight into a 20k+ job. I left University with a high 2:1, but started in my chosen career on a salary of £11,000 a year, as did many of my peers. Can we have a 'real world' survey instead next time please?
Mark, England

After 5 years of study, two MAs and several months of unpaid work experience I am now earning £16,000, after 6 months of job searching. As it's a job in publishing, I'm very lucky to be earning that much. Only one of my friends who graduated with me from St Andrews in 2000 is earning over £20,000, and we all have 4 years of student loans to pay off. I love my job and thoroughly enjoyed my degree, but believe I will be paying for this pleasure for years to come.
Sophie, UK

Few 21 year-olds change the world instantly - most have to work hard in order to get somewhere. That's how the world works. Quit being so selfish and learn that very valuable lesson
John, UK

I graduated in 2001. Applied for one job during my final year, got it, and now earn just over 30,000 a year at a large consultancy. I am at the top end of the range admittedly, but most of my friends have achieved much the same, and we all graduated from a 1960's uni with an average ranking. All of us got a 2:1 or thereabouts. Maybe we are just lucky, but I think the AGR figures do show us something...that an "AVERAGE" salary for graduates is 20,000. Good luck everyone with your job search.
Marc, UK

Having graduated with what seemed a relevant and cutting edge degree, I tried applying to numerous leading companies in the IT field only to be knocked back time after time. It's ridiculous how companies can expect you to spend a day on your application form, a day at their assessment centres, then to contact you some five months later only to tell you that you haven't got the job! Graduate recruitment isn't exactly picking out the best clones who can work to a so called standard benchmark - thinking outside of the box counts, not the fact that we can do well at assessment centres! Having applied to numerous graduate jobs and running through what seems to be a marathon for a handful of positions, it seems more worthwhile applying for a permanent position and working your way through that. The expectations and perception of graduates has changed considerably with these blatant misleading figures - and that in reality, only a handful will ever get to live the dream that is to ! graduate and work in a high paying job, because "you were educated".
Jason, Manchester

I graduated in 2000 and I'm still looking for a real job. I did have one briefly but it was for a very small local company that got bought out and my job disappeared. Reading the whole idea that graduates can now expect £20000 start salary when I graduated we were told to take nothing less than £15,000 however with all the strange requirements for UCAS points and at least 1:2 I don't think I will ever get into a graduate position I'd just be happy to get a real job again.
Anita, Scotland

Graduate wages are on the rise?!! What happened to science? I've just completed an undergraduate degree, an MSc and now about to complete a PhD in medical science and my starting salary will be about £18,500. What an incentive for young people to enter science!
Gary, Edinburgh

Let's get a few things straight. Firstly, having a degree is no guarantee of being able to do anything useful in the commercial world. Secondly, there are so many people with degrees now that just because you have one does not mean that you can waltz in to a job. Thirdly, did you really think that studying 'media studies' at a former polytechnic was going to give you anything but a large debt at the end? Finally, few 21 year-olds change the world instantly - most have to work hard in order to get somewhere. That's how the world works. Quit being so selfish and learn that very valuable lesson.
John, UK

The average salary figures you quote are nonsense clearly designed to whip up frustration and resentment. A GOOD degree (not necessarily grade wise) from a good university gives you a good educational basis for life; it does not guarantee a well paid job. Plumbers don't actually earn that much unless you are self employed and work very hard; don't believe the hype! Few people are lucky enough to have a well paid job that they really like.
G. SMYTH, Scotland

I totally disagree with the figures as the only graduates that get starting salaries that high are those who attended prestigious universities such as Cambridge, Imperial, oxford etc. Whilst I do not begrudge companies for offering individuals from those Universities positions, I do believe we should all be giving a fair chance regardless of what university or degree class one graduated with. This is because degree class or university attended does not reflect how competent or hardworking an individual will be at work. I graduated in 2002 with a first degree and masters I have to manage with a civil servant job that does not reflect the starting salary of the figures shown in your article. In addition I am just realising that my colleagues at work have the same background education as I do. So tell me, is this survey a true indication of the current career situation of graduates? I personally don't think so.
Niyi, United Kingdom

I graduated from a "new" university with a 2:2 and got a job with a starting salary of about £20,000
Pete, UK
I feel that this report is somewhat not representative of all graduate jobs. Companies based in the financial mile of London city may be offering the stated salaries in this report, but why depress those like myself who have been working since 2000, and earn nowhere near 27k. What would be nice is if the author of this report could do a more balanced review of graduate salaries industry by industry...
James Samuel, UK

Is being a graduate something to aspire to? I think not!
Mel Williams, UK

I totally agree with Terry (UK). I also graduated in 96 and sent approximately 150 applications. I was lucky to get several interviews and secured an excellent job with above-average earnings. I'm not bragging, but would like to point out that over 80% of my classmates managed the same. There seems to be a degree of complacency in today's students. You put effort into gaining the degree, put more effort into finding a job. "20 applications"? Don't make me laugh.
Margaret, UK

I graduated three years ago from a new university with only a 2:2 to show for my endeavours. I had a choice of jobs to pick from. With the company I started with my salary was £19,000. Three years later and I'm on a basic of £36,000. There are plenty of higher paid jobs around and it does not matter what uni you went to or what grade you got, but it does matter how you sell yourself to a potential employer. A little bit of work experience during your studies plus a lot of enthusiasm during the interviews goes a long way (so does appearing to know what you are talking about!)
D, Scotland

The jobs are there for graduates. I graduated from a "new" university with a 2:2 and got a job with a starting salary of about £20,000. Yes I attended assessment centres and failed along the way, but stop moaning about it and start searching, the jobs are out there!!
Pete, UK

Higher pay for Graduates? I guess it depends what Profession you enter... I'm a Subject Librarian at a University - for which being a graduate is a requirement. It took me over 3 years to qualify for my Masters Degree and to be awarded Chartership by CILIP (the Professional body of Librarianship). Yet my salary is still only £17,000 - and won't rise any higher than £20,000...
David Thompson, UK

As an employer I have seen many applicants in recent years and as a general comment I am increasingly disappointed with people with modern degrees. The grade or the University they attended really counts for very little anymore. I am looking for people who can use their brain and can apply what knowledge and experience they have so far gained and build on that. I would (and have) employed people that can demonstrate those skills rather than somebody with a 1st from some top University.
Richard, UK

I graduated in 2001 with a law degree from a red brick university. My starting salary was above the average stated by the AGR and has risen above inflation. I am one of the very lucky few. To give this figure as an average starting salary seems very unrealistic in the current climate, a lot of companies who were offering such graduate packages have now frozen their recruitment. I am glad I graduated two years ago, I don't think the same options would be open to me today.
Rebecca, London, UK

I graduated from Warwick University 2 years ago and have never used my French Degree. I started on £15,000 p/a for a very small firm (10 people) and although I am doing well now, I think the market is tough and salaries are much lower in the majority of cases. However, as I am in recruitment, I can see in hindsight why I never got the great jobs I applied for. I don't think graduates know what a good CV / Application looks like. As a result, sending out 150 CVs to various companies will only work if those CVs are top notch. It is better to send 10 well crafted applications to 10 firms you actually want to work for. The money will come too- but you have to work for it.
Matt , London, UK

Further education is overvalued.
Alex Keenan, UK

These figures are massively skewed by quoting London salaries from a few Blue Chip companies and make a mockery of most graduate salaries.
Doug, Edinburgh, UK

I graduated with a 2:1 from an ex-polytechnic in the West Midlands in 1999 (Hardly a prestigious start) I was earning over £50,000 per year within 18 months. I attribute this to hard work and commercial awareness. Graduates talk of 20 applications as if this is a lot. You need to treat looking for a job as full time work. Have a plan for getting employed, have 10-15 copies of your CV going out the door each day and you never know, you're sports \ science leisure & tourism degree might just get you somewhere.
Oliver Blostone, London, England

I graduated some years back and am now teaching. However, for all new graduates times are bleak and can only get worse. Humanity is in the mere foothills of the greatest ever global depression. All companies in all sectors are already scaling back investment and thus employment. Burdened by debt and worn down by an evolving awareness that a higher education will not bring the promised rewards, graduates, everywhere will join the despairing ranks of the soaring numbers of global unemployed.
Jim , Scotland

I do not believe the figures quoted in your article. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find a reason why I went to university. I have a low salary in local government doing a job that does not utilise any of the skills I learnt for my degree and I have high student loan debts while people I went college with who did not attend university are earning three times as much as I do. The amount of skills required by employers nowadays are so great its impossible for a graduate to achieve, even with a years placement.
Marvin, England

The fact is that so many people nowadays go to university that competition for graduate jobs is intense, and many have to settle for jobs more suited to a school leaver. With the government's plans to get even more school leavers to uni, this will intensify, until eventually, the (ever increasing) costs of higher education will outweigh the benefit of struggling to get a menial office job.
Jon Peache, UK

I gave up on applying to graduate schemes during my final year as I found them a total waste of time!! You make the effort to travel all corners of the country, spending the whole day and a few months later they send a rejection letter. I graduated in IT and am finding it very difficult to get a job as all companies are beginning to outsource to India. I worked in call-centres since graduation on about £12,000 and other friends that graduated are all less than £20,000. I now hear call-centres are being moved to India too. What must one do? Move to India? I personally would not recommend going University to anyone since because all you are left with is a huge debt and no job prospects so I can not see where these industries get their figures from!!!
Mandeep Billan, UK

I graduated with a 2:1 in Media Studies from Lancaster in 2001 and started working as a receptionist in London on £13K, I have since had six jobs (some temp)and was taking increasing pay cuts (down to £11.5K living in the midlands)in an attempt to better myself and improve my skills, I now work as a PA earning just under £16K in London and this is definitely not due to lack of effort in the job-hunting department! Once you begin one career type of experience (eg admin skills) you get labelled as that kind of person and your degree becomes a surprise to people who hear you've actually got one! I wish sometimes that I had chosen a better subject to study but then sometimes wonder why I bothered at all - then again if I hadn't gone to Uni, I would have missed out on a hell load of fun, good mates and probably the best time of my life!
Gill, UK

I've read all the comments and it would appear there are a lot of Grads out there who are disillusioned and more than baffled by this research which indicates average starting salaries of around £20K. Well I'm sorry to say I'm another one. I have a post grad degree and have done two years in an established company in the North and am on £14,500. Is the research based on Oxbridge grads all going into banking, finance or law, in the city? It certainly isn't like that where I am. It saddens me to say it, but it makes me seriously contemplate the benefit of university, at this rate I will be 32 when I manage to get my bank balance back to zero.
Alix, Leeds, UK

Do not as a student send off 180 applications to demonstrate how little you know what you want to do. Do not expect to get a job simply because you feel you could have done it given the chance. Pay attention to what recruiters say they want. Listen. Demonstrate your skills. Read newspapers to develop your commercial acumen. Nobody, employer or employee, should be complaining about the current marketplace - you all have the power to change your individual circumstance. All it requires is a little effort.
Phill, UK

The best people will always get a job. If your stuck in a call centre re assess your skill base and add a few more. We live in a meritocratic society - its survival of the fittest. I say suck it up for the first few years and then you will shine, become indispensable at the workplace and earn more money.
Farhann Cachra, London Uk

I think people seem to be missing the point. The purpose of university is not to turn you into a money-making machine. The knowledge you can gain, the friends you can make and the fact that you are actually putting off full-time employment for a few years is where the real value lies.
Gareth, United Kingdom

Use your summer vacations to find meaningful (ie. not pulling pints)
Anonymous, UK
These statistics are bizarre! The fact that so many people are posting messages here gives you an indication of the 'reality' of it all. Here's my story: Graduated with an IT/Marketing degree in 2001, took 9 months to find my first job earning £12,000...and I've got a long way to go before that student loan gets cleared. To conclude, we borrow a lot of money to fund a 3-year course, after which it will take a further 5 years to make up for the ¿loss of earnings¿. What a waste of time!
Nadeem, UK, London

I graduated in 2000 and was paid 40k in my first year, 100K in my second year and expect to earn 200K this year. This does tend to have an effect on the average.
Anonymous, England

Maybe it would be better to move abroad where companies value graduates more. After having had several interviews and no prospects of a job at all I fear it will be the only solution to get the job in Facilities management I want. Good luck to everyone, something will finally come up one way or the other.
Jarno, London, England

I graduated from a decent red-brick uni, having dossed my way to a 2:1 in modern languages. I walked into a mid-level non-grad Civil Service job paying 16k a year, and used the short and unpressured hours to set up my own business and apply for the good graduate jobs. Within 6 weeks, I had been offered something, so I resigned, took 2 months to launch my own firm, and I'm now on the graduate scheme of a major UK company, earning over 25k with amazing benefits. I get to spend 3 years doing a variety of assignments and qualifying as an HR consultant, and they've encouraged me to keep my business. Moral of the story - there are jobs out there, take any opportunity and use it as a springboard to other things. May take longer than 6 weeks (I was pretty lucky) but it's worth taking something on that gives you an income and ensures there are no "gaps" on your CV where you sat at home and got depressed about the lack of graduate jobs.
Michael, Scotland, UK

My 2:1 in Computing counted for nothing upon leaving university and I am now being paid a lower rate than I was earning without my degree, 3 years ago. Of the 20 or so graduates that I know, only 2 have got jobs relevant to their degree.
Ben, UK

All through school we're told that if we work hard and get good qualifications we'll get a good job. The reality isn't quite like that.
Raz, UK
I have just been reading all the other comments being made and I too am in the same boat. Finally, I'm so pleased to now find that a lot of fellow grads and even officials are coming out with what we all know - starting salaries are nothing like £20,000. It's more like £15,000 which is a big difference. It's so difficult these days to find a job that suits, and then even when you do, you're told that you don't meet their requirements.
Aaron Mabbson, UK

It was the positions of responsibility I racked up, inc VP of the Sports Union. Its surprisingly easy to push employer buttons when you can evidence the drive and ambition you tell them about at interview...
Mark, England

The sad thing is if you do start on £20,000 in London your quality of life will not be very good because of the cost if living. You may also become trapped in a career which you thought was good when you were 21, but later are unable to find a similar job outside of London. It is difficult for today's graduates, high house prices and large student debts are going to keep them in poverty for a very long time.
James, UK

Being on the recruiter's side of the fence, I can understand the frustration of our recent graduates. However, too many graduates these days are only interested in how high the starting salaries are. At my company, it costs £100,000 to provide two years of graduate training per candidate, and the difference between a £12k and £25k starting salary is a drop in the ocean compare to that. As to the difficulties in finding a job, my advice is (if you're still at University) to use your summer vacations to find meaningful (ie. not pulling pints) temporary employment that will boast your future earning. Be very prepared about the company you are interviewed for - it is the quality of your application, not quantity, that counts. You would be surprised how many candidates I've come across who knows nothing about the industry they claimed they are dying to work in. You don't need a top class degree to prepare for a top class interview.
, Anonymous, UK

I left university with not a very good degree, so ended up working for myself. I'm now earning an OK living and I'm more in control of my destiny than those who went to work as a corporate drone.
Jon Anderson, UK

I finished my undergrad degree nine years ago in 1994 - I ended up temping for 18 months (occasionally earning £3 an hour), then did a succession of rubbishy "marketing" jobs. One, with a charity, paid me a starting salary of less than £9,000 (a full time salary) in 1997. Since then I've returned to University and successfully completed a masters degree last year. I still haven't broken the £20K barrier, despite now being in a "profession". I only know one person who earns more than £28K, and she can't afford to buy a home. The real problem lies with the Government - in no way am I putting down all the hard work people put into their studies, but undergrad degrees are now two-a-penny. They don't mark anybody out as special or exceptional anymore as too many people have them. It's all very good to expand education and make it available, but it gives people false expectations. All through school we're told that if we work hard and get good qualifications we'll get a good job. The reality isn't quite like that.
Raz, UK

Firstly I'd like to say that it is not just the press, but also Universities who distort the figures on graduate employment. My university thought that my friend with a high 2:1 working in Next on the tills constituted a graduate job! As for salaries, only one of my friends has started on over £20K and that was in 2001. As for 2002 I am one of the lucky few who managed to get a graduate job; and that was after 25 applications and 24 rejections without interview. It's definitely demoralising getting a rejection letter through the post everyday; even more so because everyone seems to use the same HR agency who send out the standard rejection letter. I got a mid 2:1 from one of the top 6 Universities in the country, most of my friends got this or better and I know only one who has graduate job other than myself. I have to say that doing a year studying and working in Germany probably got me my current job as it went down well in the interview. And yes, I too am surrounded at work, by people my age, who left school without going to University. They may not be on the same salary, but they don't have the debt either and they are doing exactly the same job as I am!
Anonymous , UK

This just goes to show that too many people are going to University. Bring back the technical and vocational institutions.
Mark, UK

I have to say that I am stunned about the accuracy of these figures - I can only think that they have been boosted by the over inflated salaries in London. Not one of my friends gets paid the average amount - I actually have in both of the graduate jobs that I have worked in since leaving Nottingham University - but this I put down to the fact that I also have a postgraduate qualification. I was also one of the lucky ones to graduate without having to pay tuition fees - my sister has not been so lucky - she has graduated this summer from Sheffield Uni with a good 2.1, but saddled with debt and facing jobs that pay little more than £15k means that wherever these figures come from is ridiculous
Amy, UK

I did a 4 year sandwich course. I worked for a medium sized company in my placement year. And they were willing to take me on for another year and pay me 18K. So I took a year out and worked for them. Went back to uni, graduated and now employed. I think the major factor is not to be fussy in first couple of jobs. Gain some experience and if possible try doing a placement, as it will give you a real flavour of working. Once you've got some years of experience behind you and you know your stuff, you can almost command 25K. Best of Luck Every1!!
ALI, England

It is unrealistic to suggest that a degree will guarantee a 'good' job. In an increasingly competitive job market, employers are looking for graduates who have gained additional work experience or job skills. Is the Careers Advisory Service doing enough to manage undergraduate expectations and helping students prepare properly for employment?
John Flint, United Kingdom

Having graduated in June 2001, I can honestly say that it took me nearly 18 months to find a "proper" job. As the economy declined after 9/11, the outlook was terrible. I am not sure about other places in the UK, but that was the case in London. As a graduate from International and domestic universities and speaking several European languages I expected something better than working in a call centre for £7 an hour. Having spent hours applying for jobs in any way possible, I felt a bit disappointed at working with "non-educated" colleagues. I had to spend nearly a year there, going to countless interviews with companies. I got to the point where I thought that I would never get anywhere career-wise in my life. I have now got a "proper" job in the industry that I wanted to be in (Finance) and after 6 months I am earning appr. 27,000-30,000 a year. That might be higher than the average and a great leap from my last job, but my salary is mediocre compared to some of my friends. ! Even though, I feel that I have gone through enough with my studies etc. to deserve a fairly good salary. I believe that companies who value good graduates will pay them well in order to retain good employees to cut down futures recruitment expenses. To all graduates looking for jobs out there, I can only give one advice: Don't give up!
H M L D, UK

What exactly is a Graduate Job? I graduated 10 years ago this month yet have never had a job for which a degree was an essential qualification. Despite this I still spent a couple of years earning £60K. My jury's still out on whether a degree means anything in the world of work, but I'm glad I've got mine just for personal reasons.
LW, London UK

Having just graduated with a 2.1 in Mathematics from Nottingham University, I have put off applying for graduate jobs for the time being. Instead, I have joined a small computing company set up by a couple of friends who opted out of going to University. Although I am earning less in the short term, I envisage the long term prospects to be much more fruitful.
Tim Fouracre, United Kingdom

I graduated from Cambridge with a First in 2001. I added a masters degree on top of that in 2002. Trying to get a job - any job - has been tricky. Sure, I had lots of interviews, but not a single job offer. I've been temping now for eight months earning a pittance. Thoroughly depressed with the situation - anyone want to offer me a job?
Fred, UK

I am a graduate and I earn £29000 a year - but I graduated in 1996! It has been 6.5 long years with very long hours to get where I am today and I have worked for a so-called Blue Chip Plc since 1998. I still have not cleared off all my debts from uni, have a credit rating as low as a Dachshund belly all due to loans accrued whilst at uni and very poor wage until now. If I knew then what I know now....How can I advocate the benefits of a graduate education to my children.
Adrian , England

After graduating with a 2:1 MEng from a Red brick university and spending 5 years in university in all, I decided to take a year off and travel to the Alps for a ski season. On returning I have found the job market to be harder to crack than I first thought. Yes I live in London and yes I have a job which pays approximately the graduate average, but it is not ultimately what I want to do! and even getting an interview in my preferred area of interest is proving impossible. My suggestion is apply for as much as you can, see what you get, then try and get some life experience, even fulfil some of those dreams, because you are only young once and the wide open world is waiting. It is time to take control of your own life and make things happen!!
David, UK

Going to University was a waste of my time. I read a BSc at a new university followed by a funded masters at one of the red bricks. I completed my studies in Nov 2001 and am currently working in a temporary job. I am an 9K a year. I was brought-up in the inner city and was the only male from my fifth form to go to university! How do you expect me to attract children from the inner city to University. Until now I haven't received one interview.
Ias, Birmingham, UK

I was one of the lucky ones, graduating in 1999 with a degree in French & IT. Having not had to pay tuition fees, and working my way through university meant that I left with no debts, and due to the buoyant job market had my pick of graduate jobs - eventually selecting my current employer on a starting wage of £20k. Three years later, I earn 32k and consider myself one of the lucky ones. I now act as a buddy for my employer to prospective graduates at assessment centres, and can't believe the competition for jobs that now exists. Employers place far less emphasis on degree classifications today, and more on work experience and the so-called 'core competencies' - you can be the most gifted student but if you can't communicate and influence effectively etc., you simply won't get the job.
Tim, UK

I graduated in the Summer of 2002 with a 2:2 in Accounting. I immediately found work in a call centre earning £12,500 a year, but in the meantime applied for graduate jobs relevant to my degree discipline - at this point, starting salary was not on issue; the graduate scheme was. I was lucky enough to land a job as a Business Analyst, starting on £20,000 a year, that has left the door open for not just an accountancy career, but other management disciplines too. My advice would be to stay focused on what you want, and not succumb to desperation. Assessment centres: enjoy the day, it's a learning experience that should be valued, you're not trying to impress the potential employer, you're demonstrating the skills you put on your application. If you're offered a job think of it as a nice bonus. Good luck!
Matthew Thornton, United Kingdom

I graduated in 2002 with a science degree from one of the old Uni's and have been struggling to find work in a related field. The salaries for some of my friends who do have graduate jobs are not even close to the figure in the research. The problem seems to be is that the value of a degree has been watered down because so many people have them. In science you really need to do an MSc before you even get a look in. The best piece of advice I have is try to get a sandwich course with a year in industry. Your chances of finding work will be much improved.
Steve, UK

A degree doesn't give you the right to a high paid job, as people have said, it takes a little effort.
Hannah, UK

I graduated a long time ago in 1981. It was during the first Thatcherite recession. I sent off 150 application forms, and then got myself a good job in engineering. If I have learned anything it is the following three things. 1) Quote from Winston Churchill. Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, give up. 2) If the career you have chosen is a turkey either, retrain in something else or do something that includes your skills, and that you feel you would enjoy. 3) Average salaries are a way of make you feel devalued. If the average salary for a graduate was £ 15,000 there would be a lot more happy people out there. Happiness is relative. Hope these points help you all.
Hugh , England

I don't graduate for another year yet but I did a year out with a sponsoring company who currently pay me £15,000. I should have a guaranteed job offer of about £22-23k outside London so there are jobs out there, you just need to know where to look. I think one of the main problems is the specific degree people have because whilst Lawyers, Programmers and Engineers like myself have (comparatively) no problem finding good jobs, there seems to be a dirth of people with degrees in Business Studies, Economics and Media Studies. My advice is get some work experience, I did a sandwich course & had a superb year, made lots of friends, went on holidays & paid off some debts. I'd highly recommend it & experience will give me a big advantage in future job interviews.
Mark Landers, UK

My graduate friends earn between £15,000 and £25,000, in various professions and in various parts of the country. An average of £20,000 doesn't sound too unrealistic to me. I get over £20,000 working in engineering in the North West - hardly a London banker!
, England

The blue chip's are vastly over hyped - I worked in the city for one year and hated the "me me me" money rules everything practices. i now work for the NHS for roughly the same money but with far more job satisfaction. What's the point in working like a donkey for a blue chip that will only throw you in the scrap heap when "market conditions are no longer favourable".
Sunny, England

I graduated in 2001 and started with my current company as a means to an end after coming out of uni with debts up to my ears. 2 years on an I am still earning short of £15000p.a. What really bugs me is that the government will use these "statistics" to come to the conclusion that students CAN afford to get into tens of thousands of pounds of debt while at university because of course they'll be earning plenty of money when they leave and walk straight into a high paid job!
Jen, UK

I'm afraid that the days of a degree being the passport to a better job/bigger salary are long gone. It is simply that graduates are two-a-penny in the UK these days so the qualification means less than it did. I don't know where these figures come from at all - they certainly don't match up to my experience. It seems they are probably skewed by the salaries of people working in the City.
Ian, UK

Young people are sold this lie that you much go to university. The most highly paid people I know are younger than me and didn't go to university. You should only go to university if you have clearly defined goals
Roger, UK

I think that the figures are about right. I realised when I completed my BSc in 1997 that the value of a degree has been vastly diluted by the sheer numbers of good (and not so good) graduates. So I decided that a PhD was the way forward and after 3 years of poverty and hard work I completed and got an IT job (both degrees in chemistry) at £20K. 3 years on I now earn £40K and expect that rate of growth to continue. The conclusion is clear. If you want to get the career and salary you need to differentiate yourself from the thousands of others out there.
Jim, UK

I've got a great deal of sympathy with this years graduates. I graduated in June of last year and it took almost 8 months of intensive job hunting, and more rejections than i care to remember, to get where I am now. The majority of my friends aren't earning anywhere near the firgures being quoted. So with less graduate jobs and salaries that are quite often pathetic, is it really worth going to uni just to build up vast amounts of debts and no prospects? The best money these days seems to be for skilled trades such as plumbing and there is a severe shortage of people in this area.
Kevin, South Wales

I run an I.T. company where we hire one new graduate every year, this year it will be on a starting salary of £14,800. As a small company it is as much as I can afford to pay. Even so I receive 30 or 40 applications. some good news, my recruits from 2000 and 2001 were taken on by blue chip companies after gaining their experience here. they now earn over £20k. My advice would be to take a job the field you are interested in no matter the starting pay. experience plus a degree really counts.
Paul, UK

What about the thousands of intelligent, ambitious and hard working grads who do all the right things but happen to choose a career in, say, the charity sector or even journalism? I graduated 3 years ago and have only just broken the £20k barrier. I live in London and constantly struggle for money. But I love my job, and the big blue chips were just not the right option for me.
Tracey, London

Firstly i don't think that average wage is that high. EVERY person I have kept in touch with from my uni who did a BSC earns over, and in most cases, well over £20000. Having a degree doesn't give you the right to a well paid job, its just supposed to prove that you can think. Don't think employers are stupid, they know which degrees only require 6 hours a week in lectures. If your friends who didn't go to uni had spent those 3 years drinking and lying in bed till lunch time, then they'd probably be in the same boat as you.Incidentally i didn't go to Oxford or Cambridge, just a good quality red brick.
Graham, UK

Employers more than ever look at the rest of your CV and life in general - what leadership experience you've had whilst studying and whether you're a good team player. Students have to realise that to get the best job you can't be lazy outside of your studies.
Jon, UK

Since graduating from the LSE (MSc Analysis, Design and Management of Information Systems with Merit) in 2001 I've been searching for Graduate roles. I started with a clear career plan in mind and applied for all that seemed relevant. Now, almost 2 years later, I'm completely disillusioned with the whole thing. I'm applying for anything and everything but I'm either overqualified, under experienced or the role just simply doesn't exist. Salary isn't even a consideration for me anymore, getting a foot in the door is far more important. I wish I'd never been to university now. It really hasn't given me the advantage I was led to believe it would. Unfortunately most firms will no longer class me as a graduate in a few months time because I will have been out for two years. What on earth will I do then with only administrative experience to show for all my endeavors?
Claire, UK

Don't believe the hype Higher Education is a waste of time and money. I wish I had never went to University I would be far better off today if I hadn't
Alan, Scotland

The number of comments on this page speaks for itself. I graduated last year with a 2:1 MEng from one of Europe's leading technical universities. Took me 4 months of interviews before I got my first job interview with a company based in central London. They offered me a basic package of £16K, how insulting! How is one to pay off student debts, get a foot on the property ladder with a salary like that in the centre of one of the three most expensive cities in the world, if not the most expensive. I believe the real problem lies with the government, you don't need a degree to work out the effects of offering more places at university each year while at the same time drastically reducing the higher education budget.
Dom, UK

Although I have been lucky enough to secure a very good, "graduate job" in the civil service, many of my friends are still searching a year after graduating. Partly this is due to the overhyping of blue-chip firms. The final months at uni are spent attending big expensive glossy presentations, receiving emails from professional services firms and spending more time on application forms for these firms than on coursework. However, the competition for these places means only the best (or best at assessment centres) make it through, and everyone else has wasted time and effort and gets disheartened. The more appropriate graduate level jobs in small businesses, regional firms, local government seem completely overlooked by careers services and graduates.
Paul, UK

We have far to many people at Universities and to many Mickey Mouse degrees, which impact on the cream of the students. The only way to resolve the crisis is a wholesale reform of the education system. We should adopt a more American style of system where wasf the education system. We should adopt a more American style of system where wasters are weeded out in the first year and not able to receive a degree. This means that University is seen as work where you have to turn up for your lectures and study all year round and not in the last 2 weeks of a term and therefore more attractive to employers.
Dermott, England

I don't have a degree. I left school at 16 with 4 o-levels. I earn £25K plus benefits and bonus. I worked my way up through the company from being a secretary. It makes me mad that people with degree's - most of which are completely useless in the real world, think they have an automatic right to a job paying loads of money when they are completely useless to the average employer.
Tracey, UK

Having graduated last June with a degree in Compuitng I am still unemployed. I have also sent near to 100 application forms and gained about five interviews from them. But once in the interview and the old question of "What relevant work experience have you had?" comes up bye bye goes your chances. Most of the jobs I applied for asked for a minimum of two years experience. How do you get this experience if no one will offer you a job? I have also applied for other jobs not related to my degree and have been turned away for being over qualified. I am now on an unpaid work placement through the New Deal to try and gain some experience which I hope will better my chances in the job market. It is not very good when all of my mates from school who don't even have a GCSE between them are all employed and earning more than the minimum wage. The way I see "Its who you know, and not what you know" will get you a job that pays a fair ammount of money.
Chris, North East, UK

My particular complaint concerns the assessment day. I have been on several since graduating. All graduate recruiters have the same ridiculous laboratory-testing style set of exercises (presentation,psychometrics tests, group discussion, etc). I know several people who have efeectively blagged their way through these centres by giving a pre-planned and contrived acting 'performance'.However, would they sustain this level of performance once starting the job? Surely it would be wiser for graduate recruiters to develop new and different ways of selecting candidates and not have this 'one-size-fits-all' assessment day? And why should I after 11 'A' grade GCSE's; 3 'A' grade A Levels and a 2.1 degree from a redbrick uni have to pass a pathetic 20 minute numerical/logic test. The results of these twenty minutes tests seem to count for more than all my past academic achievements.
Koonjal, UK

I graduated from Oxford with a degree in law. Having applied for 17 training contracts I was still left empty handed last year. It's not just those form the new universities that are having problems!
Jen, UK

I think someone touched on it earlier by mentioning that there seems to be a plethora of graduates out there with useless degrees. I graduated from a university looked down on by those on the hill in Glasgow with a 2:1 in Civil Engineering in 2000. I'm originally from inner city Glasgow, from the second most deprived constiuency in the UK and therefore take not one iota of life for granted. I have never had any major problems finding the job that was suitbale for me and my aspirations. I graduated into an engineering position straight after I finished university before realising that it really wasn't for me and took the big career change after 1 year. I now work for one of the big consultancy firms in the City earning well over £30k p.a. but I believe my determination and attitude got me where and not for one second did I believe that I was entitled to a great career because of my degree. Albeit


SEE ALSO:
Graduate jobless rate rises
18 Jun 03  |  Education
Facing the graduate job-hunt
26 Mar 03  |  Education
Tough job market for graduates
20 Jun 03  |  Education


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