Study Shows University Graduates Take Longer On Average To Find A Job Than Non-Graduates

In the current job market, recent graduates are facing a daunting challenge: finding employment. Research reveals that half of all new graduates report that it has taken them over six months to bag a professional job after completing their studies. In contrast, only 17% of experienced non-graduates faced such a long job search.


Impact on Uni experience


The job hunt struggle isn’t limited to the post-graduation period. For those who graduated during the pandemic (between 2020 and 2023), the difficulty in securing relevant work experience during their university years was a big issue.

Fifty percent of these graduates found themselves unable to secure work experience, and 27% who did manage to find some, only got short-term positions lasting between 1 to 6 months.


Are degrees still worth it?


A recent poll conducted by staffing firm Walters People reveals a concerning trend. New graduates, those who have completed their studies within the last 12 months, feel that their newly acquired graduate status doesn’t give them much power in the job market. A huge 72% of them believe they lack a significant edge over candidates who did not pursue higher education.

The value of a university degree is increasingly being questioned. A significant 45% of recent graduates do not believe that their degrees have equipped them with the necessary skills to succeed in the current job market. Nearly 20% of them even believe that work experience would have been a more valuable asset.



Blaming a ‘tough’ job market


The British government recently revealed plans to address ‘rip-off degrees,’ categorised as programmes with a high drop-out rate or low post-graduation professional job placements. However, research by Walters People suggests that the job search challenge is not limited to graduates from specific courses. This raises the question of whether the difficulty lies in ‘rip-off’ degrees or the inherent challenges of the job market.

Janine Blacksley, Director of Walters People commented: New graduates are entering the most challenging jobs market seen in close to a decade – a mixture of less vacancies, salaries that don’t match the cost-of-living, and high competition bought about by access to remote & global talent – is certainly playing a part in the time it takes new graduates to find a suitable job role.

“Added to that, we have seen a trend emerge amongst Gen Z’s who – potentially having witnessed their parents or older siblings work in a pre-pandemic corporate world – now place much more emphasis on the enjoyment of their job, the values and purpose of the company, as well as well-being and work-life balance – which is all leading to a longer time being spent on the job hunt.”


The value of degrees declining


A substantial 39% of graduates now believe that their degrees hold little to no value in the job market, while 19% feel their degrees are less valued than expected. This perception aligns with data from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), which reveals that the proportion of companies requiring a minimum of a 2:1 qualification from graduates fell below 50% for the first time last year. LinkedIn data also indicates a significant increase in UK job postings that do not require a university degree.

Prominent companies like Kellogg’s, Google, EY, IBM, and BBC have dropped their traditional requirements for university degrees, emphasising diversity and attracting candidates from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. In a tightening job market, employers are increasingly valuing work experience over degrees.


Degrees have no relation to jobs


More than half (53%) of employed graduates report that their current jobs have no relation to their degree. This misalignment between degrees and jobs is prompting many graduates to reconsider their career trajectories in order to secure employment.

While some graduates enter the workforce with clear career goals, other factors weigh heavily on their decision-making. According to Janine Blacksley, young graduates prioritise career progression (38%) and salary (35%) over their jobs being directly related to their degree field (15%). Job stability ranks the lowest in their priorities at 13%.

In today’s challenging job market, recent graduates face a challenging journey, grappling with the value of their degrees, the relevance of their skills, and the shifting expectations of employers. As they navigate these uncertainties, the emphasis on career progression and financial stability remains paramount in their pursuit of professional success.