What is a graduate-level job, and how much should graduates expect to be paid?

What is a graduate-level job, and how much should graduates expect to be paid? This was the theme of a talk that Daria Luchinskaya to undergraduate students at the University of Warwick as part of an event focusing on career planning, ‘Scholars’ Personal and Professional Development Day: Forward Thinking’, held earlier this year.

The event was aimed at undergraduates in different stages of their degree, from across the University. Students attended a mix of interactive sessions and presentations, including how to make the most of careers fairs, writing an ‘elevator pitch’, the role of extracurricular activities. The aim of the event was to offer students, especially those from widening participation backgrounds, information about career development that students from more privileged backgrounds often take for granted.

Daria’s presentation focused on three main points – what do graduates do, how can we say what is or isn’t a graduate-level job, and where we might find out information about earnings. Different sources of data were highlighted throughout the presentation. Using ‘What do graduates do?’ data from Prospects, we looked at the breakdown of the most frequently held types of job six months after graduation. The top three destinations were health professionals (of graduates in employment, around 20 per cent worked in these roles), business, human resources and finance professionals (20%), and retail, catering, waiting and bar work roles (10%).

But how can we distinguish between what is an is not a graduate job? A graduate scheme might come to mind, but these are just one type of graduate jobs. We might think about the skills and knowledge used at work. Indeed, the ONS measure of graduate jobs uses a definition developed by Professors Peter Elias and Kate Purcell at the IER, which emphasizes that graduate jobs “normally require knowledge and skills developed on a three-year university degree to enable [job holders] to perform the associated tasks competently”. Based on this definition, 100% of the SOC 2010 professional occupations are classified as ‘graduate-level’, followed by three quarters of managers, director and senior officials, and around half of associate professional occupations. None of the retail jobs is classified as graduate-level, however. Thinking about the use of knowledge and skills at work provides a more nuanced definition of graduate jobs than the ‘high-skilled work’ definition, which applies to all managerial, professional, and associate professional occupations.

Last, we might consider what is an appropriate graduate-level salary. Students were invited to shout out their guesses – these ranged considerably, but were not far off the ballpark (inasmuch as a ballpark can be said to exist). Estimates circulated in the media range between £28,000-30,000 per year (e.g. supported by figures from High Fliers and the Institute of Student Employers, but these tend to be geared towards large companies that tend to run graduate schemes) to £19,000-22,0000 per year (supported by DLHE data and graduate-jobs.com). Pay also tends to vary by location – Daria asked the students to guess the regions for the top and bottom starting salaries in UK regions. The top one was London, at almost £25,000 (easy!), and the bottom? Wales, at £20,600, narrowly behind Northern Ireland. Graduate salaries also vary quite widely by industry, so it may help to have an idea of industry norms. The presentation suggested useful links for further information.

To show some of the rich data available, Daria demonstrated the LMI for All Careerometer widget, that was very popular with the students and with the Careers Services facilitating staff. The students offered suggestions for jobs to explore (careers adviser was one of the suggestions – there was a good sense of humour in the room), and Daria showed how different aspects of different jobs could be compared, in terms of pay, number of hours worked, and future trends. Students thought that the widget was very useful because it offered a range of information and it was easy to do an ‘at a glance comparison’.

Overall, the event was very successful, and the students though that it was very useful. The data capabilities of LMI for All are clearly well appreciated, and there is demonstrable appetite for similar, easy-to-use comprehensive information about jobs and future trends.

D Luchinskaya

Blog post written by Dr Daria Luchinskaya now working at the University of Strathclyde.





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