Less than half of graduates qualified to work in some industries with skills shortages actually do so, according to research carried out for Universities Scotland.
The research was prompted by comments about skills shortages in Scotland. David Caldwell, director of Universities Scotland, said: "There has been much more anecdote than evidence. We commissioned this research to try to get some idea what the real situation is."
The analysis was carried out using Strathclyde University's Scottish Labour Market Intelligence Model. The computer modelling system, funded by Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Executive, matched graduates with particular degrees to the areas that they work in.
"The results show that less than half the electronic engineering graduates become electronic engineers," Mr Caldwell said. "We see the same pattern in the other occupations where it has been suggested there is a shortage of graduates."
Universities Scotland last week submitted the survey's findings to the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee, which is carrying out a review of lifelong learning.
Mr Caldwell admitted the findings offered only a "broad brush" picture, but warned: "Before we put in place strategies to create more engineering graduates, we had better make sure that industry is attracting the ones we are already producing."
Alternative graduate careers included design and development engineering, teaching, business consultancy and the clergy.