Analysis: IT graduates suffer most in jobs slump

November 15, 2002

It is not just medicine and law that prove popular with students and employers, 'quasi-academic' degrees are winning favour. The THES reports.

Just a year or two ago, IT graduates could pick and choose between lucrative job offers, but figures out this week reveal a dramatic turnaround. Media studies, business studies and civil engineering graduates are now enjoying the best career prospects, writes Alison Utley.

The slump in the IT industry is largely to blame for an overall rise in graduate unemployment of 1 per cent over the three years to 2001, according to a report by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit.

Rising unemployment among graduates reverses a ten-year trend. In 2000, graduate unemployment fell to a low of 5.5 per cent.

Computing graduates have fared particularly badly. Over the period, they suffered a 13 per cent fall in the percentage getting jobs within six months of graduation.

But Valerie Rowles, assistant director of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, said overall graduate unemployment was nowhere near the 12 per cent high that was reached a decade ago.

"While the graduate employment market is very volatile at the moment, and the IT industry particularly so, we don't expect to be going back to those sorts of figures in the foreseeable future," she said.

In the year to March 2002, the average graduate salary offered in the UK was £17,722, according to the report What do Graduates do? , which tracks the first destinations of more than 176,000 graduates.

The highest average salaries were found in management consultancy at £19,726, IT at £18,835, and engineering and technology services at £18,717.

Graduates aged 20-24 were earning on average some 25 per cent more than those with A-level or equivalent qualifications.

The report also shows a record number of women entering professions traditionally dominated by men. Law saw the biggest rise in the number of female entrants. Medicine saw a rise of 1,800 women on the previous year.

Margaret Dane, chief executive of Agcas, said the increasing popularity of law could be attributed partly to the influence of popular culture. "When these graduates were choosing their degree subjects Cherie Booth enjoyed a most positive media profile as a high-achieving barrister and Ally McBeal was a popular TV show, so it's not surprising that law became an attractive career for women."

What do Graduates do? is published by the CSU, Agcas and Ucas.

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