What do Masters graduates do?

This an unabridged version of the employment part of my piece on Masters graduates that appears in the quarter’s Graduate Market Trends.

This article examines the outcomes for UK-domiciled Masters[1] graduates six months after graduation, using data from HESA Destination of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE) surveys. It looks at data for graduates from the 2013/14 academic year, examines how they fared on leaving university and looks at the types of jobs they got.


Masters Graduates from 2013/14 enjoyed relatively favourable outcomes six months after graduation, with the large majority in work six months after graduation and unemployment relatively low. Figure One shows details for this cohort, broken down by mode of study.

masters outcomes article
Figure One: Outcomes for UK domiciled Masters graduates from 2013/14 after six months, by mode of study

It is necessary to separate out full time and part time students for this cohort in order to get a balanced picture of outcomes and the jobs market, as the two groups are rather different. 56% of this cohort had studied full time, 44% part time. 77% of full time Masters graduates were under 30, whilst 74% of part time graduates were over 30 when they completed. Part time Masters graduates are more likely to have an existing employment history, and many return to previous employers on graduation.

As a consequence, outcomes differ. Full time graduates were more likely to continue on to further study, largely into doctoral programmes, but were also more likely to be out of work than their part time counterparts – and more likely to be out of work than full time first degree graduates. Part time Masters graduates were much likely to be in work. 82% of part time Masters graduates working part time were in professional level employment, and the majority stated that they took their role as it was ‘It fitted into my career plan’ or ‘it was exactly the type of work I wanted’, and so this option should not generally be seen as a negative choice.

These figures represent an improvement in outcomes for Masters graduates over the last 12 months. Figure Two summarises data for full time Masters graduates over the past three years (methodological changes to the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education survey prevent the comparison of data prior to 2011/12).

Masters tow
Figure Two: Outcomes for UK domiciled full time Masters graduates from the three years to 2013/14, taken six months after graduation

Outcomes for first degree graduates saw a significant improvement in 2012/13, and this improvement continued for 2013/14 graduates. For Masters graduates, we see a later improvement, with a significant fall in the unemployment rate, taking place for 2013/14 graduates. This suggests that the prospects for these graduates may have started to improve a little later than for first degree graduates but also offers hope that we may see a further fall in the unemployment rate over the next 12 months. Part time graduate also saw a modest fall in the unemployment rate, but outcomes were already generally favourable and merely improved once the UK came out of recession.

Figure Three examines the employment of Masters graduates from 2013/14.

Masters tow ft pt
Figure Three: Employment of UK domiciled Masters graduates from 2013/14 after six months, by mode of study

The differences between the part time and full time Masters graduates can be seen clearly. Part time graduates were more likely to be in roles with a social or education focus whilst full time graduates were more likely to enter business or finance roles. It could be argued that a continued fall in part time Masters enrolment may start to significantly impact some industries, and it can be noted that health and education are two sectors currently experiencing difficulties in recruiting qualified staff.

[1] By ‘Masters’ we only examine stand-alone postgraduate Masters degrees, both taught and the much rarer research Masters. Integrated Masters along the MEng or MChem/MPhys pattern are not considered in this article.


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