Although the economy is beginning to recover after the markets crashed in 2008, the future is still far from certain, especially with regard to job prospects for recent or future university graduates. One of the knock-on effects of the financial crisis was that those who had just graduated or were about to graduate found that companies had less money to invest in new hires, and jobs which had been plentiful prior to 2008 were now non-existent.
What is the situation like now, though? Can current students reasonably expect to easily find a job when they graduate? Is it worth those currently considering applying to university wasting their time and getting into huge amounts of debt, only to find it nearly impossible to pursue the career they have their heart set on when they leave?
The current percentage of unemployed graduates is 7.3%. That is comparatively high when taken against the stats from other years, but it’s important to note that “unemployment” doesn’t necessarily mean “has been trying to get a job and failing”. The figures are also only relevant six months after graduation dates – there’s nothing to say that that 7.3% of graduates wouldn’t all get jobs within the next six months, especially if their chosen industry is one where it is harder to get a foot in the door.
However, when the cost of higher education in 2014 can total as much as £60,000, is it really worth going to university?
It depends on your area of study
There are some careers in which a degree is essential – those training to become doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers have to pass exams and gain qualifications in order to ensure their competency, and they’ll begin by gaining a degree. Other career paths like candidates and hires to have a degree, but are willing to waive that for the right candidate, while other career paths don’t require any formal qualifications at all. If the job you would like to pursue doesn’t necessarily need a degree, why go to university to get one?
Extra-curricular activities can count in your favour
There is increasing evidence that the academic aspect of a degree does not count for quite as much as it once did, with some companies placing a higher-than-usual level of importance on the way a candidate conducted themselves while at university. Milkround, a company that specialises in advertising and managing applications for graduate jobs, says that employers are taking more notice of society activities, work experience placements and entrepreneurial endeavours in applications. A candidate applying for a 2:1 job with a 2:2 degree might not meet the academic requirements, but a strong extracurricular record would demonstrate that he or she could learn and put the hours in to become successful.
Starting salaries affect the rate of repayments
Some industries, such as medicine, offer starting salaries that are above average, but most starting salaries will fall somewhere between £16,000 and £25,000 per annum. Don’t go into a degree assuming that you’ll come out of university and automatically be earning enough to have paid off your student loan within a couple of years, because the current repayment system will not allow for that. Currently, a graduate on a £24,000 p/a salary will automatically repay £53 per month, which works out to £636 per year. It’s a long process, and one that you may not be prepared to commit to.
Don’t drop out halfway through
It should go without saying that, once you’ve made the decision to begin a degree, it doesn’t benefit you either financially or education-wise to drop out halfway through – if you decide it’s not for you, make that decision within the first month or two. Unless there are personal circumstances or issues that make it impossible for you to complete your degree, stick it out, otherwise you’ll be saddled with a year or two’s worth of debt (potentially £18,000 assuming tuition fees of £9,000 per year) with nothing to show for it.
Ultimately, if the job you want to pursue is one in which a degree would increase your chances of getting it; if you’re the type of person who will get involved with other aspects of university life and if you’re sure it’s what you want to do and you’ll follow it through to the end, university is always the right choice. Coupled with the fact that the economy is recovering all the time and more and more jobs are becoming available, the threat of student debt (as long as you’re careful about what you’re spending) shouldn’t deter you from pursuing higher education.