Posted on Thursday 14 October 2010 by Ulster Business

There is a big gap between what graduates in Northern Ireland expect to be paid and what they are actually earning

A recent graduate survey conducted by exclusively for Ulster Business found that the majority of graduates (55 per cent) have salary expectations of between £20K and £30K. But the survey also found that 60 per cent of respondents were earning between £10-20K with only 25 per cent earning £20-30K. The survey is indicative of the difficulties graduates are now facing when entering the workforce, as well as the benefits degree qualifications have provided to those already in the workplace. Exactly half of the 300 respondents (50 per cent) felt their degree had been useful and agreed with the statement “my degree helped me to have a better career”. The figure was higher among recent graduates with 62 per cent believing their degree has helped them achieve a better career. Some felt their time at university had not been beneficial with 36 per cent of respondents stating their degree made no difference to their working life and 14 per cent believed they would have achieved more if they had not gone to college. Peter McMonagle, General Manger of, said: “Graduates are often criticised for having unrealistic expectations in terms of recruitment opportunities and salaries, however these survey findings have shown that graduates in Northern Ireland are more aware of the current economic environment and understand the job market. We are seeing a steady flow of new jobs, with an average of 2,500 jobs available online on each week, with particular strength in the IT and Sales sectors. It is also reassuring to note that there have been several major job announcements in the media in the past month which points to a growth in employer confidence in Northern Ireland.” The most popular sectors for graduates according to the survey are Science, Pharmaceutical & Food, IT, Engineering & Utilities, Marketing and Accountancy & Finance. 63 per cent of respondents were working or seeking work in their chosen field. Of the most recent batch of graduates - those who graduated in 2010 - the highest percentage (23 per cent) had graduated with qualifications in Engineering & Utilities. The vast majority (87 per cent) were either working or looking for work in their chosen field and 60 per cent are currently earning between £10 and £20K, but 74 per cent have salary expectations of between £20 and £30K. The survey also examined how people who left college over ten years ago and found that even ten years on 56 per cent are still working in a field related to their degree. The majority (29 per cent) are earning between £20-30K and 24 per cent are earning between £10-20K which leaves almost half (47 per cent) earning over £30K. And 66 per cent of the older graduates believed that their degree helped them have a better career, 29 per cent believed it made no difference and only 5 per cent said they would have achieved more if they hadn’t gone to college. Mr McMonagle added: “To get a degree takes a lot hard work, time and commitment. Graduating in a tough recruitment market can be daunting but new graduates should take heart that from their predecessors, all those people who left college over a decade ago, believe that having a degree helped them have a better career.” The NI Jobs survey follows an in depth salary survey by Abacus Professional Recruitment released in July that found salaries had typically dropped 5 per cent -15 per cent across many sectors. While it said the impact of recession had spread across virtually all business sectors including the accounting and legal professions, there were signs that the labour market is starting to stabilise, with more companies calculating fresh staff appointments. “Many local firms are certainly more confident and outward looking. Recruitment is returning to their radar, although with justifiable caution. They are smartly managing a blended recruitment strategy by taking on temporary staff and appointing people on interim contract of perhaps 3-6 months. Importantly, the volume of permanent recruitment is rising as well and decisions are being made faster; both positive indicators for the future,” according to Alan Braithwaite Business Director at Abacus Professional Recruitment. “Jobseekers should start preparing CVs, gaining career advice and perhaps develop an appropriate social networking profile to increase their visibility.”


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