Academic high fliers are being bustled to one side by graduates with work experience in the rush for well-paid jobs, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters.
A new survey of 4 leading British firms shows that a student with relevant work experience can earn three times as much money as a student with a first-class degree. "This could be a reflection of employers' increasing emphasis in the selection process on non-academic skills such as interpersonal skills and flexibility," the AGR says.
Supplements are given to students with particular qualities, and while a top degree can attract an extra Pounds 500, work experience can attract an extra Pounds 1,650.
Even a postgraduate with a masters qualification will be given only an extra Pounds 1,000. But employers do not altogether rule out academic distinction, and for those who struggle through a PhD course, the rewards can be high, usually an extra Pounds 2,250 and sometimes an extra Pounds 3,525.
The payment differential between vocational and academic students is widening. Last year, students with work experience received an extra Pounds 1,000 while students with first-class degrees received an extra Pounds 505. This widening gulf is typical of the changing graduate salary climate. In 1994, the gap between the lowest and highest salary was Pounds 6,500. In 1995, the gap was Pounds 7,850, a 20.7 per cent increase.
The most common starting salary was Pounds 14,362 in 1995, a 5.6 per cent increase on the previous year. But salaries can vary considerably, and the median salary in the high-paid group and the median salary in the low-paid group differed by Pounds 1,076. This difference is predicted to increase this year to Pounds 1,250.
There is also a growing difference between graduate starting salaries in the industrial sector and such non-industrial sectors as the City. In 1994, the top non-industrial salary hovered around Pounds 18,500, some Pounds 3,000 more than the industrial salary. In 1995, the gap was Pounds 5,000, the non-industrial salary rising to Pounds 21,000. This year, the gap is forecast to increase to Pounds 5,450.
The AGR survey shows there is a recruitment gap between the sectors. In the companies surveyed, some 9,363 graduates were taken on, down by 2.6 per cent on the previous year. Yet, while non-industrial recruitment fell by 12.5 per cent, industrial recruitment rose by 21.5 per cent. Despite rising student numbers, employers again reported recruitment difficulties, the figure more than doubling from 13 per cent in 1993 to 28 per cent in 1995.
Graduate Salaries and Vacancies 1996 by the Association of Graduate Recruiters. Copies available from Sheraton House, Castle Park, Cambridge CB3 0AX.