Want a Good Job? UK Students Say You Need a Degree

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Three-quarters of UK high school students believe that a university degree is required to get a good job and progress in your career.

That’s according to a study by the global hiring platform Indeed, which interviewed 500 students who are due to receive their A-level results today. They found that 74 per cent of school leavers believe they need a degree to achieve a higher salary or progress in their career. 

60 per cent of UK students also said that going to university is either “critical” or “important” to their chosen career, while just over half said it would improve their earning potential. 

Despite this, just under a third believe a degree isn’t with the cost. And with the level of graduate jobs below their pre-pandemic level and the cost of living adding pressures to personal finances, many students are re-considering the value of a degree.

“As hundreds of thousands of students receive their A-Level and BTEC results today, it’s clear from our research that a majority of them view university as the best path to a successful career, said Danny Stacy, Senior Manager, Talent Intelligence at Indeed.

“However, in the face of rising costs in society, we also see signs that many students are also thinking twice about when, where and what they study as well as the value of a degree.”

Indeed’s research also polled UK workers most (85%) of whom said university helped their career. However, when asked whether it was worth the cost of the student loan, only 23% agreed. 

Cost-of-living Crisis hits Universities

Indeed’s research arrives on the 25th anniversary of student loans being introduced and as the average loan repayment climbed to £42,900.

The financial toll appears to be weighing on this year’s cohort of students. A third of A-Level and BTEC students who receive their results today don’t believe that a degree is worth the cost.

38 per cent also said costs impacted where they decided to apply – for example looking at universities in cheaper parts of the country, while 16 per cent of those who don’t plan to go to university said the cost of student loan repayments was a significant reason for their decision.

Some respondents added that they thought their degree was a “rip-off” and that there aren’t enough jobs available for the course they studied, reflecting the recent plan by the Government to  down on under-delivering degrees

graduate jobs indeed

Recent studies show that there has been a notable downward trend in the number of graduate jobs this year compared to past years. This lack of job opportunities, paired with the rising costs of degrees, has led many students to reassess their options. 

“We’ve seen a 30% rise in interest in apprenticeships over the past four years suggesting that despite record numbers of UCAS applications, young people are increasingly looking to begin their journey to better work through hands-on experience,” Stacy added. 

While many jobs do and perhaps always will require a degree, we know many prosperous careers can be started straight out of school with starting salaries in entry-level jobs being as high as £30,000 for some sales roles or £50,000 for those able to write software code.

“So while university is right for many it’s by no means the best option for all and my advice for those receiving their results today is to consider their destination and plot the best route to getting there.”

The rise of generative AI with the launch of ChatGPT has also had an effect, with many students changing career paths due to fears over how AI could impact the jobs market in the years to come. 

‘Zombie’ applicants

However, the research suggests the search for better work isn’t the only reason students are applying for university degrees. 

While 30 per cent think going to university will get them a better salary, a quarter applied because their parents encouraged them to, and 16% never considered not going to university at all but applied anyway. 

This suggests that some applicants are taking a zombie approach to apply rather than a conscious decision about how the university will help them get better work.

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