Beautiful Newcastle city at night

58.8% of graduates are doing “non-graduate” jobs. Clare Duncan [1] asks whether this is all due to location location location.

The transition from university to the working world can be made all the more difficult if your home is not where you would like it to be. Graduating only a couple of months ago myself has led me to realise that having a degree does not always leave you on a level playing field. In fact, the struggle to get your foot on the career ladder can often be down to something external to your qualifications and experience: where you live.

When the end of university approaches, you might begin to think about where the jobs you want are located. Countless numbers of graduates are compelled towards the big UK cities, sold by the vision that these cities are career opportunity hotspots, but not all graduates agree that it is a smart move.

Where to go to Get a Job...

The jobs market in the UK differs around the country. For instance, Newcastle is a prosperous city for civil and mechanical engineering; whereas in Cambridge the job market for science graduates is thriving. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, not all sectors concentrate in London. 

However, if you are desperate for a private-sector job (e.g. finance, accountancy or law), the capital cities are your best bet. London, regarded as the business hub of the UK and the choice for many global firms’ European offices, boasts numerous graduate schemes with the expectation that graduates will relocate and rent in the capital. Yet, opinions vary on whether more graduate jobs make it easier to secure a spot on their schemes. Toby, a third-year student of Law, is convinced the competition per position in London law firms remains fiercer than in other UK cities. Fortunately, for those applying for graduate schemes in the private sector, your salary is normally enough to give you the choice of living comfortably in such expensive cities.


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BUT It’s Not All About the Big Cities...

Perhaps, the greatest flexibility and choice over post-university location comes to graduates seeking to join the public sector. Doctors, policemen and social workers are in demand across the country. Ben, a BSc Molecular Biology graduate, describes how he mistakenly believed Sheffield, because of its many hospitals, had more medical opportunities than his hometown Ipswich. A year of unsuccessful applications, due to fierce competition for places, persuaded Ben to return home to Ipswich where his first application landed him his ideal job and he was able to save a fortune on rent.

Ciara, a BA History & Politics graduate, also believes she is not feeling the benefits of living in a major city, ‘I hear a lot of things about Manchester being the new up and coming place for graduates…but I'm finding it difficult enough to get an ordinary job here, let alone a graduate job’. Success depends upon supply and demand and sometimes in the biggest cities the supply of graduates outstrips even the high demand provided by multiple graduate schemes.

What About Unpaid Internships?

Nowhere have I seen the issue of location become more important than in the case of my own career aspirations. As a Politics graduate, I soon realised the strategic advantages of living in London. For one, the majority of the civil service, think tanks, national and international charities are based there. Furthermore, a high percentage of these organisations require graduates to intern on an unpaid basis. This is only practically possible for those already living in London or those able to afford rent without an income.


Looking for a job in the sciences? Why not try Cambridge?

Image Credit: Kosala Bandara/

And ‘Non-Graduate’ Jobs?

Many graduates without access to large cities are ending up in typically ‘non-graduate’ roles such as hospitality. A new report, released on the 19th August by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (see also: More than half of graduates in non-graduate positions) shows that 58.8 % of graduates are working in 'non-graduate' roles. Graduate experiences have led me to believe that this shocking statistic could partially be the result of a lack of choices available to graduates living in rural areas. 

Several graduates believed that it was their location that saw them taking up ‘non- graduate’ roles after university. Amy is a recent BSc Biology graduate, eager to work in the conservation industry but currently working in a restaurant. She explains, ‘sometimes when I'm wiping down tables I think "I have a degree, what am I doing?" but there are no other opportunities in Salisbury’.  To fulfil her potential, Amy thinks she will have to make a move to either Bristol or London in the near future. 

5 General Things to Consider…

  1. The size of a city isn’t always related to job prospects despite popular belief.
  2. Consider the cost: You may save a lot more if you work outside of the expensive cities.
  3. When choosing your degree/university - take some time to think where the majority of jobs you like will be located, and whether you may have to move in the future.
  4. Think about what is more important to you post university; earning money or getting valuable experience? Because sometimes you have to initially sacrifice one.
  5. Remember that job prospects can and will change. Increasingly, industries are moving away from London due to high rents and the cost of living for employees.

[1] Reproduced with kind permission from Clare Duncan: