This report considers graduates employed in non-graduate occupations. Using survey data from Futuretrack and Moving On, it compares the early career paths of two graduate cohorts. Those who graduated in 1999 (‘the class of 1999’) are contrasted with those who applied for higher education in 2006 and subsequently graduated in 2009 from a three-year course and in 2010 from a four year course (‘classes of 2009 and 2010’). It analyses graduates’ time spent in non-graduate jobs from a longitudinal process-orientated perspective; from a cross-sectional perspective; and in a content analysis.
Importantly, the report highlights that the concept of ‘non-graduate occupations’ is contested and that a plethora of different definitions and different ways to measure the amount of graduates in non-graduate occupations exists. This report utilises the definition of non-graduate occupations proposed by Elias and Purcell, (2004) which states that a non- graduate job is one for which a ‘graduate level education is inappropriate’. The classification used in the report is based on aggregated occupational information from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) validated using empirical graduate data (Elias and Purcell, 2004).
While non-graduate positions may function as stepping stones into graduate jobs during recession, this research observes that many graduates who were first employed in non-graduate jobs remain in those jobs and lose contact with potential graduate employers and, therefore, the potential for graduate employment. This effect is compounded for certain groups such as those from lower socio-economic groups and those who graduated from lower tariff higher education institutions (HEIs), where employment in non-graduate jobs is usually more concentrated.
There search further found differences in the patterns of employment between the cohorts with regards to gender, mobility, and work experience. It highlights that subject, choice of HEI, degree classification and type of work experience all had an impact on the length of time that graduates from both cohorts spent in non-graduate roles following graduation.
It also provides insight into what graduates think about their employment situations at the time the final field work was conducted. Overall, the report shows that, while some graduates managed to progress from non-graduate roles to roles more appropriate to their degrees and accumulated experience, others who were still in non-graduate employment expressed deep frustration about their lack of progression.
Finally, the report suggests a number of areas for further research including: how graduates can enhance their employability while working in non-graduate roles; the role that further study plays in improving long term employment outcomes; and the link between work experience and employment outcomes.