15 Astonishing Graduate Employment Statistics for 2024

Looking into employment prospects for UK graduates in 2020, we can notice that some of the largest UK firms are taking in the most graduates, as new trainees and interns have cancelled their plans for 2020. 

In contrast, others have furloughed their trainees with the rest of the staff who will get government-paid wages. Some have not yet disclosed the changes in plans but many student summer programmes have been transferred to digital form for the time being, as organisations embrace elearning.

The graduate employment statistics we gathered at Mark in Style reflect the state of the labour market in the previous years and are yet to include the changes brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s dive right in.

Fascinating Graduate Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • There were 34 million graduates in the United Kingdom in 2017.
  • Graduate unemployment in the UK is 3%.
  • The median salary for graduates in England in 2018 was £34,000
  • All courses allied to medicine have an employment rate of 99.3%.
  • Around 31% of graduates are overqualified for their positions.
  • The number of graduates increased from 24% to 42% between 2002 to 2017.
  • About 73.9% of graduates are employed in professional roles.

General Graduate Employment Statistics UK

1. There were 34 million graduates in the United Kingdom in 2017.


Anyone aged over 20 who is currently not enrolled in an educational course and who has already reached an A level education or higher is considered a graduate. 

In 2017, there were 34 million workers not enrolled in an educational course in the United Kingdom. Out of those, 14 million were graduates (42%), 7 million had A level qualifications (21%), just under 7 million (20%) had A* to C grade GCSE, 3 million had no categorised qualification levels (9%), and another 3 million had no qualifications. 

2. The number of graduates increased from 24% to 42% between 2002 and 2017. 


A labour force survey for 2018 showed there’s been a significant increase in the number of graduates in the UK since 2002. A steady rise could be observed, from 24% in 2002 to 42% in 2017. So, there are more and more people with qualifications, as getting a higher education becomes something more and more common.

3. The difference in employment rates for graduates and non-graduates is around 16%.


Graduate labour market trends show a rise from 2011. In 2018, there was a slight difference between the graduate employment rate, which stood at 87.7%, and the postgraduate rate at 87.4%.

The employment rate of non-graduates for the same period was 71.6%.

4. The graduate unemployment rate in the UK is 3%.

(ONS, Prospects)

What is the current unemployment rate in the UK?

Looking at the general unemployment statistics in the UK, the current unemployment rate in the UK for the first three months of 2020 was 3.9%.

Among graduates and those with an A standard, in the 2017/18 statistics, the graduate unemployment in the UK was 3%, while the unemployment rate for those educated to A= to C grade GCSE standard stood at 5%

The highest rate was for those of other qualifications or no qualifications (6%).

Student employment statistics show that for those who are six months out of university, the unemployment rate in 2018 was 5.1%, making it the lowest recorded rate since 1979 when that percentage was 4.9%

5. About 73.9% of graduates are employed in professional roles.


Proportionally, the number of graduates in professional roles went up from 71.4% to 73.9%, as 7,895 additional graduates were employed in professional roles. 

The results of the first Graduate Outcomes survey for the 2017/18 graduates will be published in June 2020, when national-level statistics and HESA data will be revealed in the Statistical Bulletin.

People discussing graduate employment statistics

6. The inactivity rate for graduates in the United Kingdom was 15% in 2017.


Graduate employment statistics for the UK report that the percentage of those who are neither employed nor unemployed is represented by an inactivity rate that was 15%. Among A levels graduates, this number was 19%, in A* to C grade GCSE standard it was 24%, and among the category of other or no qualifications, the inactivity rates were 29% and 53%, respectively.

7. The median salary for graduates in England in 2018 was £34,000. 

(The Guardian, ONS, DFE, Prospects)

The earnings gap between graduates and non-graduates is about  £10,000 on average. It has been at that level for some years now. And according to the Department for Education analysis of the labour force survey, the average graduate salary in England is £34,000, compared to £24,000 that non-graduates usually were paid. These numbers reflect findings in all age groups, from 20 to 64.

8. At the age of 25, the average salary is £8.21 an hour.

(The Guardian, ONS, DFE, Prospects)

The average salary for the 21-year-old in the UK is £7.70 an hour. Another increase follows at the age of 25 to £8.21 an hour. 

You may be wondering:

What is a good salary for a 30-year-old in the UK? 

People in their early thirties can expect an average salary of £35,423

9. Men earn 13.7% more than women on average.

(The Guardian, ONS, DFE, Prospects)

The gender pay gap is still present and stands at 13.7%. Men are also more likely to find a higher skill position than female graduates.

The global economic crises put starting wages lower in 2009. And while the employment rate is going steadily up and is quite similar for men and women, male workers are still seeing a faster recovery in salaries than female workers.

10. The median graduate starting salary in 2018 was £22,399.

(ONS, Prospects, Statista, The Guardian)

A shortage of certain skills in the areas of IT, engineering, accountancy, and marketing in the graduate job market influenced the increase in the graduate starting salary in 2018 from £21,776 to £22,399 across the country, especially in the Midlands, East of England, and Northern Ireland.

11. Medical studies have the highest graduate employment rate of 99.3%.

(The Guardian)

Graduates with an undergraduate degree in medicine or engineering have better chances for employment and are among those with the highest average annual pay.

Graduate employment statistics by subject show that those who get employed fastest come from medical studies. 

What’s more:

All courses allied to medicine have an employment rate of 95%. Biology has 90% and agriculture 89%, followed by physics at 88.8% and mathematics at 88.9%.

Maths graduates usually choose IT as an alternative career, as do those graduating from physics courses. In contrast, English or humanities graduates largely turned to the marketing sector if not employed in their own field. Many also opt for volunteer tutor jobs or, once they’ve acquired the necessary qualifications, SEN teacher jobs.

12. Around 12% of all graduate workers are working in retail.


Graduate outcomes research shows the highest number of overqualified graduate workers can be found, unsurprisingly, in retail. Around 12% of all graduate workers are working in retail, and around 70% of them hold positions below their education level.

13. The percentage of graduates with full-time or fixed contracts is 61.8%. 


Looking at contract length, the number of graduates who had full-time contracts or one-year fixed-time contracts (after being in a position for six months) was 61.8%.

Zero hour contracts still saw a 4% rise in 2018, compared to the 3.6% recorded in the previous year among the newly employed.

14. Around 31% of graduates in 2017 were overqualified for their jobs according to graduate employment statistics.


The education level of an individual is often higher than the job they do requires. So, in 2017, 31% of graduates were overqualified for the work they were doing. The percentage of those who graduated before 1992 and have more education than the role they are filling needs is  22%, while 34% of those who have graduated after 2017 are overqualified.


Labour statistics show that the highest numbers of overqualified graduates work in London where 25% of the workforce has a higher level of education than their job needs.

Biology, arts, and humanities are the areas that have the most overqualified workers. Visible mostly in recent graduates this is also in part due to highly educated migrant workers coming in.

The biggest percentage of overeducated workers can be found in the age group from 35 to 49, which brings us to the conclusion it is an ongoing state of the UK graduate labour market.

And finally:

15. Coming out of top UK universities enhances your chances for fast employment worldwide, graduate employment statistics confirm.

(Times Higher Education, Universities UK)

Graduate employment statistics by university in the UK show that there are certain universities that more or less guarantee employment. Among recent graduates, most employable are those coming out of Cambridge, Oxford, and Imperial College London.

Check this out:

[bctt tweet=”At least 30 international leaders, 27 British prime ministers, 50 Nobel prize winners, and as many as 120 Olympic athletes have attended Oxford.” via=”no”]

This contributes to the fact that employers look highly on graduates coming from their courses. Cambridge also has a vast and influential alumni network worldwide, and Imperial College offers its students career support and advice years after graduation.  

So, it should come as no surprise that up to 82% of international non-EU and EU graduates report that getting a degree in the United Kingdom was worth the financial investment.

workers in an office

People Also Ask

What percentage of graduates get a job?

The number of graduates in professional roles is 73.9%, and up to 87.7% of graduates get a job. Only 3% of graduates are unemployed, and around 15% are considered to be inactive, meaning neither employed nor unemployed.

What percentage of university graduates are unemployed?

For university graduates that are six months out of university, the unemployment rate in the United Kingdom in 2018 was 5.1%, the lowest in the last 40 years.

What degree has the highest employment rate?

Graduate statistics show medical degrees, along with dentistry and veterinary science, have the highest employment rate of 99.3%. Subjects allied to medicine come next with the rate of 95%, and biology and agriculture follow with 90.6% and 89.3%.

What percentage of the UK has a degree?

The Office for National Statistics reports in the Annual Population study that 34.4% of the UK workforce aged 16 to 64 has a degree level or an equivalent qualification, an increase from ONS numbers for 2002 when that percentage stood at 27.2%, albeit conducted on a larger sample than the 2016 Annual Population Study.

The Bottom Line

Graduate employment statistics show there is a massive effect on salary levels for those who enter the workforce during times of crisis, exacerbating the already serious UK student debt situation. In fact, the average pay maintains a lower average level even five years after starting work.

And that’s not all:

It’s more likely that new graduates will stay unemployed for longer, even years after graduating. And once they do get jobs, they will start off with less than those who were coming into the labour market just last year.


Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Department for Education (DFE)


The Guardian

The Guardian

Labour Force Survey


Times Higher Education

Government Statistics




The Guardian






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