The Truth Behind Your Degree

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Words | Raelee Lancaster

A recent survey has found that university students will likely be unemployed for four months after they graduate. Studies have shown that in 2013, 71.3 per cent of students had full-time employment, down 5 per cent from the previous year. Meanwhile, only 18.1 per cent of students managed to obtain casual or part-time work and a further 10.6 per cent were found to be unemployed.

“This is a very real problem,” said post-graduate student, Casey. “Many friends of mine who have graduated university are either unemployed, in low-paying jobs that have nothing to do with their degree or aren’t being paid at all as interns.”

“It comes down to experience,” adds fellow Macquarie student, Ashley. “Businesses don’t want to hire someone who have no previous work experience. That is difficult if you’re a full-time student who wants to put all of her time into her studies.”

The decrease in full-time employment for graduate students is attributed to an oversupply of university students. For example, earlier this year the Australian Financial Review found that the number of law students had doubled over the past decade, noting that there are not enough jobs in the field of law for all of these graduates.

But it’s not only law graduates who are struggling to find jobs. While arts majors always have and continue to struggle finding employment after university, it may come as a shock to find out that science majors are also having difficulty finding work in such fields as dentistry, veterinary science and speech pathology.

In an article for the Sunday Morning Herald, journalist Tony Featherstone argues that universities are being unfair to students by allowing so many to graduate when they know the prospects of jobs are limited. “It seems like students are being asked to pay more for degrees that are worth less,” he states.

The Australian’s Judith Sloan agrees, questioning whether universities should limit the number of students they recruit instead of telling high school students that university is the best thing for them. “Less able school leavers are implicitly being encouraged to enrol in higher education rather than consider attending TAFE or another vocational institution, even though the latter option may be more suitable for them,” she says in her article, ‘Studied lessons in career suicide.’

Life after university therefore appears to be a double-edged sword. Whilst a university degree does not guarantee you a job, your chances of developing a career without one are even further diminished. “Being a university students isn’t the meal ticket it once was,” Judith Sloan continues. “There are better uses of precious taxpayer dollars than funding marginal students who then cannot find related employment.”

Whilst Sloan’s view on the decrease of graduate employment may seem harsh, one cannot help but agree with her. Indeed, the problem may not lie with the system itself but current student expectations. As Macquarie University student, Aimee states, “people expect to walk into a six-figure job after university instead of working their way up the career ladder.”