Graduate Labour Market

Graduate labour market information gives a general picture of what recent graduates have done, average earnings and graduate recruitment trends.

It can help you to understand your employment prospects after university, identify your main options and help you make career decisions.

What do students typically do after they graduate?

What Do Graduates Do?, a report produced annually by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), using data collected for the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, gives a breakdown of what the quarter of a million 2011 graduates from all UK universities were doing in early 2012:

Activity of graduate    %
Employment only 61.8
Further study only 3.1
Employment and study 8.4
Unemployed 8.6
Other 8.2


What Do Graduates Do? provides information on the occupations and sectors entered by graduates, broken down by subject area.  You can read more about the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey that informs this publication.  Prospects' Options with your subject are a useful starting point for investigating typical destinations with your degree subject.

Find out more about what University of Wolverhampton leavers have gone on to do by reading the subject related pages in our Careers Library Online.

Trends in graduate employment

In the past, the difference between a graduate and non-graduate level job was very pronounced. University leavers tended to enter traditional graduate professions such as law and medicine or be accepted onto graduate management training schemes with large, prestigious companies.

The graduate labour market today is much more complex. Developments such as increased global competition and advances in technology mean that the workforce needs to be more highly skilled. This has led to:

  • Occupations that were not originally graduate level now requiring a degree. 
  • An expansion of higher education, more people gaining degrees and increased competition within popular sectors. 
  • Occupations that are still usually classed as non-graduate (ie retail management or educational support roles) requiring higher level skills which can be gained from a degree.  

Employers are increasingly recruiting on the basis of skills and qualities and, in many cases, these are even more important than the subject knowledge you have acquired through your degree. Read more in our section on what employers want.     

What is a graduate level occupation?

Seven Years On: Graduate Careers in a Changing Labour Market by Professors Peter Elias and Kate Purcell classifies graduate jobs into the following categories:

  • Traditional graduate occupations include: solicitors, research scientists, medical practitioners
  • Modern graduate occupations include: programmers, journalists, primary school teachers
  • New graduate occupations include: marketing, management accountants, therapists
  • Niche graduate occupations include: nursing, retail managers, graphic designers

Although it is difficult to define the term 'graduate job' exactly, it is generally agreed that around two-thirds of graduates (first degree) enter 'graduate' occupations six months after graduation.

Non-graduate jobs

As well as a degree, entry into many occupations requires candidates to possess relevant work experience, employability skills and sometimes even a postgraduate qualification. It is increasingly common for recent university leavers to take a non-graduate job which they combine with activities such as work experience and voluntary work to boost their employment prospects. Find out about more in our section on what employers want.

Keep up to date with employment trends

Average earnings

Further information