Monday, 5 December 2011

What Do Chemistry Graduates Do? 2011: Part 1

The 2011 edition of What Do Graduates Do? has recently been published by Prospects. This report identifies what graduates from the 2009/10 academic year were doing 6 months after qualification, be it work, further study or job seeking. For those employed, additional information is requested regarding their job description and employer.

The Prospects report is compiled by members of HECSU (Higher Education Careers Service Unit) and AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services), and is based on raw data provided by HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) - the full report is available here.

An analysis of the 2010 report was previously published on this blog – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – and included an overview of the options available to chemists on graduation and the types of careers pursued. This year there will be more focus on how employment trends for chemists have changed over the last 5 years, and how they compare to graduates of other subjects.

Overall, there were 284,000 graduates eligible for the latest survey, up from 274,000 last year. The number of chemistry graduates also increased, from 2655 to 2720. In fact, between 2006 and 2010, both figures have increased by around 20%.

The infographic below illustrates the small proportion of students that go to university to study the traditional sciences. Biology, environmental studies, chemistry and physics combined account for only 6.7% of all graduates (excluding foundation degrees); while business/management studies, art & design and law are each individually more popular (accounting for 10.1%, 8.6% and 6.9% of graduate numbers respectively).

The destination of 2009/10 chemistry graduates 6 months after qualification is broadly in line with figures from last year, and is visualised below:

Credit: Clipart from Microsoft

As a scientific research subject, a disproportionate number of chemistry graduates go on to further study (Masters, PhD, PGCE, etc) – indeed, only physics (36.5%) and law (34%) have a comparable level. As a result, the employment rate of chemistry graduates (42.8%) appears very low compared to the overall subject average of 62.2%.

A more meaningful figure is the unemployment rate. Unfortunately, while the introduction of the Prospects report describes a “small but encouraging turnaround for the graduate labour market” – 21 of the 26 subjects show a decrease in unemployment rate over last year – it admits that this has not been the case for chemistry. At 9.5%, the chemistry unemployment rate is both higher than the all-subject average (8.5%), and the 2009 figure (8.7%). Of the five subjects with increasing unemployment, only biology (10.7%) fares worse; while languages (8.4%), geography (8.0%) and law (6.8%) at least remain below the all-subject average.

Comparing the Prospects destination data for the last 5 years reveals a number of trends:

It appears that the chemistry class of 2009 may have been an uncharacteristic one, whereby the number of graduates choosing to study for a higher degree spiked, with the consequence that the proportion entering employment dipped. The 2010 figures demonstrate a reversal of this, with both destinations resuming their medium-term trend (employment rate steadily decreasing, higher degree study slowly increasing/stabilising).

As suggested last year, it may be that a proportion of the 2009 graduates made the decision to avoid a weak job market by opting to study for a PhD, hoping for an improved situation in 3-4 years. If this is the case, the continued rise in unemployment rate may be expected, but not welcome.

It is also interesting to note that the spike of graduates entering teacher training in 2009 – perhaps as a decision to enter a more recession-proof occupation - has also been reversed. While small as an overall proportion, this still represents a fall of 15%, from 141 to 120 graduates.

Next: For those graduates finding a job in 6 months, what did they end up doing?

[edit: for swapping performing arts and art & design on the infographic]

1 comment:

  1. I could not get some companies to even look at me because I only had a 3.2 from Purdue. PURDUE of all places! Our grades are not inflated and I had at least Bs in all the classes that mattered. Luckily I slipped into graduate school at the last minute and am pursing a PhD, but still, it's disappointing how hard it is to find a job in Chemistry at the moment.


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