Graduates are taking "boring" and "routine" jobs once shunned by self-respecting university students, according to a report by the Institute of Employment Studies.
In a survey of 1,000 Sussex University graduates, the IES found that a tranche of jobs had emerged in the early 1990s. In 1993, students were becoming playgroup leaders, postal workers and porters - jobs which were "virtually absent" in the job lists of graduates in 1991 and 1992.
Some 40 per cent of graduates were employed in small and medium-sized companies - rather than the traditional graduate recruiters - and 6 per cent were self-employed. Only one in four moved straight into a permanent job which they stayed in for a further three years.
Report author Helen Connor said: "The notion of what constitutes a 'graduate job' has broadened and the assumption that graduates attain secure, permanent and professional level employment is less tenable now than it ever was."
Across the sample, nearly 60 per cent felt they were underemployed. But the proportion had increased by the 1993 cohort, two-thirds of whom reported an under-use of degree skills. Most of these said their jobs were "boring" and "routine".
The proportion holding what they considered to be a graduate job fell from 84 per cent in 1991 to 67 per cent in 1993.
Teaching was the most common graduate career, followed by clerical assistant, journalist/writer, computer analyst, social worker and design engineer.
The rise in sub-professional graduate jobs depressed reported graduate salaries.
Most graduates were still earning less than Pounds 14,000 three years after leaving university. Overall, of those earning more than Pounds 16,000, one third were men compared with fewer than one fifth of women graduates.
The highest earners were in the mathematical sciences. Graduates with a first also earned above average salaries, and could expect to find permanent jobs in the first six months after graduation.
Some 46 per cent of students with a first secured a permanent job within six months, compared with 29 per cent of those with a third.
What do graduates really do? Helen Connor and Emma Pollard, IES report 308. Available from BEBC ltd, PO Box 1496, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset BH12 3YD. Price Pounds 16.00.