Twenty-four grand job? It’s all right, say UK graduates

New graduate employment measure indicates that university leavers working in education and healthcare find their work most meaningful, with some jobs usually considered ‘highly skilled’ falling short

September 19, 2023
Source: iStock

UK graduates’ well-being does not significantly improve in line with their salary once they start earning above £24,000, according to new research.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) says that data on graduate destinations has historically focused only on their earnings and whether they secured a “highly skilled” job.

They said it has always been assumed that these jobs are where graduates apply what they learn in their studies and most align with their career aspirations.

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However, researchers have devised a new composite measure on the “job design and nature of work” – based off three questions in the Graduate Outcomes survey asking whether their work is meaningful, what they learned in higher education, and how much it fits with their future plans.

When using this new metric, Hesa found that graduates working in education scored highest, followed by those working in human health and social work activities.

Graduates in some occupations that are considered highly skilled – such as some managerial positions in retail and hospitality – reported low scores.

And others that are not classed as skilled scored highly in the “job design and nature of work” measure, including teaching and childcare support occupations.

It also found a positive association between earnings and well-being is only seen up to approximately £24,000.

After this point, well-being does not measurably improve as earnings increase.

Tej Nathwani, author of the research, said: “Fulfilling employment is considered by the Fair Work Convention in Scotland as work that provides a sense of purpose, offers the opportunity to use your skills and provides development prospects.

“However, earnings and the ‘highly skilled’ employment marker traditionally used within the sector do not necessarily indicate whether a graduate has secured fulfilling work.

“With all nations of the UK aspiring for their graduates to have fulfilling lives and work being a central aspect of adulthood, our new measure can help policymakers assess to what extent this ambition is being achieved.”

Although economics graduates typically earn more than those studying other subject areas, the new measure shows that the highest composite scores came from medicine and dentistry graduates.

This was followed by veterinary science, and education graduates.

At the other end of the scale, those who had studied creative arts and design scored lowest in the job design and nature of work measure.

And the new research showed almost no difference in scores between graduates from Russell Group universities and other UK providers.

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Reader's comments (1)

Well, I for one enjoyed that rakish headline:-)