Reporting year 2019

Graduate labour market statistics

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These statistics show labour market conditions for the following groups living in England:

  • graduates
  • postgraduates
  • non-graduates

This release also sets out a breakdown of graduate outcomes by different subcategories, such as gender.

Headline facts and figures - 2019

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Key Statistics

In 2019 the graduate employment rate (87.5%) was marginally lower than in 2018 (87.7%) going against a general trend since 2011 of year-on-year rises. 

Graduates are more likely to be in employment than non-graduates, although the gap has been narrowing since 2014 and this trend continued in the latest year. In 2019 the non-graduate employment rate was 72% compared to 71.6% in 2018.

Postgraduate employment rates rose by 1.3 percentage points from 2018 to become the group with the highest employment rates (88.7%).

Post-graduates have seen the largest increase in median salary from 2018 (+£2,000). This has increased the gap between graduates and post-graduates to £8,000, the largest it has been since 2007.

Conversely, the gap between graduate and non-graduate median salaries has narrowed to £9,000 which is the smallest the gap has been since 2007. Compared with 2018, the median salary of graduates remained the same whilst for non-graduates it increased by £1,000.

The 2019 figures represent a nominal increase of £2,500 for graduates, £5,000 for postgraduates and £4,000 for non-graduates since 2009. However, these changes over time should be interpreted with caution since median salary figures in this publication do not account for inflation and have been rounded to the nearest £500.

At 78.9%, the proportion of postgraduates employed in high-skilled roles in 2019 exceeded that of graduates (65.6%) and non-graduates (23.9%). Conversely, across the three groups, non-graduates were most likely to be employed in medium/low-skilled roles (48.1%). The proportions for graduates and postgraduates were 21.9% and 9.8% respectively, 0.4 and 1.2 percentage points lower than in 2018.


The Graduate Labour Market Statistics (GLMS) covers labour market conditions for English domiciled graduates and postgraduates, and compares these to English domiciled non-graduates. This edition of the GLMS summarises the annual employment and earning outcomes data for graduates, postgraduates and non-graduates in 2019. In addition to the median outcomes data this publication also provides the employment and earnings outcomes of graduates by characteristic. The breakdowns included are: age group, gender, ethnicity, disability status, degree class, subject group, occupation, sector of employment and region. 

Employment and earnings outcomes are provided for the working-age (16-64 year olds) and young (21-30 year olds) population groups. This publication also provides time series data covering from 2007 to 2019 to help understand trends for the headline statistics and to allow comparison with the pre-recession market. As the results presented in the publication are based on survey data, they represent estimates. Therefore, any findings should be interpreted with caution as they may not necessarily be statistically significant. 

In this publication, graduates refer to people whose highest qualification is an undergraduate degree at Bachelor’s level; postgraduates are those holding a higher degree (such as a Master’s or PhD) as their highest qualification; and non-graduates are those whose highest qualification is below undergraduate level, i.e. National Qualification Framework Level 5 or below (see methodology note for a more detailed explanation). 

The GLMS only provides simple outcome measures based on survey data and does not control for the differences in characteristics between graduates, postgraduates and non-graduates. This means that the outcomes reported may not be wholly attributable to the fact that an individual holds a particular qualification, but instead could reflect other factors, such as their wider skills, experience, or natural ability.

Further information on the methodology used and validity of the estimates can be found in the methodology section and supporting data. Since annual summaries are based on populations derived from the summation of  quarterly data sets, it is not possible to produce confidence intervals for this analysis.

Headline Outcomes

Since 2007 working-age postgraduates have had the highest employment rate every year except for 2018 where it was highest for graduates. In 2019, working-age postgraduates once again had a higher employment rate and a lower inactivity rate than working-age graduates and non-graduates. At 1.9% (down by 0.3 ppts from 2018) the unemployment rate of postgraduates was the lowest of the three groups and less than half that of non-graduates at 4.8% (down by 0.2 ppts from 2018).

Amongst the young population, as with the working-age population, postgraduates had a higher employment rate than the other two qualification groups, however a slightly larger proportion of postgraduates were inactive compared to graduates. In contrast, young non-graduates performed the worst across all three indicators. The inactivity rate for young non-graduates (20.2%), was more than double the rates for young graduates (7.9%) and postgraduates (8.0%). However, this cohort is likely to include a significant proportion of economically-inactive students.

Comparing the two age cohorts, employment rates were similar for the working-age and young populations. Across all qualification categories those aged 21-30 were more active in the labour market than the working-age population however, with the exception of graduates, the unemployment rates of the young cohort were also higher. This could indicate that young postgraduates and non-graduates find it relatively more difficult to find employment than their working-age counterparts.

Within both age cohorts, a smaller proportion of non-graduates were in high-skilled roles compared with graduates and postgraduates. Although graduates and postgraduates had similar employment rates overall in 2019 a much larger share of postgraduates were in high-skilled employment; for both working-age and young individuals, the medium/low-skill employment rate of graduates was more than twice that of postgraduates.

Across all qualification types, individuals in the young population had lower high-skilled employment rates than their working-age counterparts. This may provide some evidence for graduates and non-graduates ‘upskilling’ as they acquire increasing amounts of labour market experience. It could also, however, reflect the limited number of high-skilled employment opportunities available to younger individuals and the potential difficulties they face matching into relevant jobs early in their careers.


In 2019, the median postgraduate salary exceeded that of graduates and non-graduates for both age cohorts. Within the working-age population, the median salary for postgraduates was £8,000 more than for graduates and £17,000 more than for non-graduates; for the young population the differences were smaller, with the median postgraduate salary £3,500 more than the median graduate salary and £9,000 more than the median salary for non-graduates. 

Working-age individuals had a higher median salary than those aged 21-30 across all qualification types, likely reflecting the greater amount of labour market experience that they will have gained on average compared to younger workers. The largest median salary differential between cohorts was for postgraduates, where the median salary of the working-age population was £11,500 more than that of the young population (£42,000 and £30,500 respectively). Where postgraduates are more likely to enter the labour market later than graduates and non-graduates, this gap provides some indication that, once employed, they are more likely to progress to more highly skilled and highly paid roles than those holding alternative qualifications. 

Year-on-Year Changes

Compared with 2018, employment rates in 2019 have increased for all groups except for working-age graduates. Young postgraduates and working-age postgraduates have seen the largest year-on-year increases, with employment rates increasing by 2.2 and 1.3 percentage points respectively. Year-on-year high-skilled employment rates have risen across all groups.

Year-on-year median salaries have risen for all groups except working-age graduates. The largest nominal increase in median earnings was for working-age postgraduates, by £2,000 to £42,000. Median salaries rose by £1,000 for working-age non-graduates to £25,000, £1,500 for young graduates to £27,000 and by £500 for young postgraduates and non-graduates to £30,500 and £21,500 respectively.

Time Series Data (2007-2019)

Since 2009 employment rates for the working-age population have steadily climbed following the recession, with 2019 figures for graduates and non-graduates now exceeding pre-recession levels. However, whilst the employment rate for postgraduates has seen the largest increase from 2018, it is still 0.4 percentage points below its 2007 level. 

Employment rates for the young population over this period have been more volatile. For the first time since 2016 the employment rate for all three groups in 2019 has risen. As with the working-age population, postgraduates have seen the largest increase since 2018 (2.2 percentage points) with employment rates for all groups now above pre-recession levels.

High-skilled employment rates have been relatively stable across both population cohorts and different qualification groups over the past 12 years. The largest fall over this period has been for working-age graduates whose high-skilled employment rate has fallen by 3.1 percentage points to 65.6%, within a overall rise in employment rates over the same period. It should be noted that caution should be exercised in making comparisons to years prior to the 2010-2011 as SOC codes were revised by the ONS at this point (see methodology).

Since 2012 the proportion of young graduates in high skilled employment has risen by 4.2 percentage point to 58.1%. However, the percentage amongst the working age population has remained virtually unchanged.

For the working-age population, non-graduate and postgraduate unemployment rates in 2019 continued to decrease following the trend that has largely been a feature since 2013. For working-age graduates, the unemployment rate is unchanged compared to 2018 but for all three groups it is lower than before the recession. For the young population, 2019 figures were more mixed across qualification groups. Graduate unemployment rose by 0.5 percentage points from 2018 to 4.5% and is once again higher than in 2007. Non-graduates are the only group in the young population for whom the unemployment rate fell in 2019 and is the only group in this cohort that has unemployment levels below that of 2007. This may indicate that the graduate labour market is more competitive than previously, especially for recent graduates. One possible reason for this is the supply of high-skilled labour exceeding demand, as growth in student and graduate numbers continues.  

In 2019 median salaries rose across all groups except for working-age graduates, continuing the recent trend.

Trends in median salaries since 2007 have been similar for all qualification types, across both population cohorts, suggesting that the nominal earnings growth of graduates and postgraduates over this period has not come at the expense of non-graduate salary growth. These nominal rises do not, however, account for inflation and therefore do not necessarily reflect changes in individuals’ purchasing power over this period.

Gender Breakdowns

Within the working-age population in 2019, males across all qualification groups had higher median salaries than their female counterparts. The difference was most pronounced for graduates where the median salary for males was £10,000 more than that for females. The smallest gap in median salaries was between male and female non-graduates which reduced by £1,000 to £5,500 in 2019.

Since 2007 both males and females in all three qualification groups have experienced nominal salary growth, albeit not necessarily at constant rates. Whilst the growth rate of male and female non-graduates has been similar (therefore maintaining a relatively constant earnings gap), for graduates the faster salary growth rate of males in recent years has resulted in the gap between males and females increasing by £2,000 since 2016. This may be due to the different sectors that male and female graduates tend to seek employment in, with construction – likely to employ a larger proportion of men – having seen strong earnings growth in recent years (+£3,000 from 2018).

As with the working-age cohort, postgraduate males had the highest median salaries within the young population in 2019, while the female median salary was lower than for males across all qualification groups. The differences between genders were, however, smaller than for the working-age population, possibly reflecting the limited time for factors influencing the gender pay gap to set in. This gap was largest between postgraduate males and females at £5,000, an increase of £1,500 from 2018. For young graduates the gap remained the same as in 2018 at £3,500 whilst for young non-graduates the gap decreased by £500 to £3,000.

Males employed in banking and finance, transport and communication and construction had the highest working-age median salary (£45,000), whilst for the young population, males in public administration, banking and finance, and transport and communication had the highest median salaries (£30,000). For both cohorts, females employed in distribution, hotels and restaurants had the lowest median salaries, at £22,000 and £19,500 for the working-age and young populations respectively.

Across all industries, for both age cohorts, males had higher median salaries than females in 2018. The gap was largest for working-age graduates in the transport and communication sector, at £13,000. It was smallest for young graduates in the manufacturing sector, at £1,000. This provides some evidence that gender pay differences widen on average with increasing amounts of labour market experience in higher-paying industries.

For the working-age population, the gap between male and female median salaries increased from 2018 in banking and finance (+£2,000) and transport and communication (+£3,000). The largest decrease was in distribution, hotels and restaurants (-£2,500). Although, this was as a result of the male median salary in this sector falling rather than the female median salary rising.

Further information is available

Within the supporting data we have provided a more detailed focus on the employment and earnings outcomes of graduates by their specific characteristics. These breakdowns include:

o  Age group

o  Gender

o  Ethnicity

o  Disability status

o Degree class 

o Subject group 

o Occupation

o  Sector

o  Region

These have been provided for the working-age (16-64 years old) and young (21-30 years old) graduate populations.

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Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.

You are welcome to contact us directly with any comments about how we meet these standards. Alternatively, you can contact OSR by emailing or via the OSR website.

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