Want a job after uni? Here's what you should know before enroling
College students yell as they raise their fists in the air to kick off a ceremony marking the start of the job hunting season in Tokyo on February 25, 2016. Source: Toru Yamanaka/AFP

Employability matters to international students. In QS’s recent International Student Survey, at least 56 percent of prospective international students said it’s important that the university they attend has a track record of ensuring these three outcomes: graduates are employed; they are employed in their preferred industry; and both of these things must happen soon after graduating.

The current job outlook may be cause for disappointment to these students. High-skilled, young workers in developed economies can even find themselves more likely to be unemployed than all-age workers. That’s the case in the UK.

Meanwhile, in the US, one out of every 20 young college graduates is unemployed, a higher rate than in 2000, when it was only one in 25, an Economic Policy Institute report found. The overall employment rate for young college graduates is in decline and the share who are idled – neither employed nor enroled in further schooling – has increased between 1989 and 2019.

Picking the right college can be the difference between being employed or unemployed after graduation. If your plan is to be in the former, here’s what you need to do when picking a university:

1. Look out for important data

When researching colleges or universities, you should have these questions answered: how many graduates are employed? How many graduates are employed in their industry of choice? How soon were graduates employed in their preferred industry? How much are they earning compared to the student debt they’ve taken on?

A good track record in all of the above means it’s more likely you’ll be able to achieve the same. Not all universities publish this information, however, but that doesn’t mean you can’t request that they release the information for you.

2. Not all college courses are created equal

Some have lower employment rates while others, of course, have higher. According to an analysis of Census Bureau data by HeyTutor, a private tutoring service, the mass media industry had the highest unemployment rate at 7.8 percent. This was followed by liberal arts (6.7 percent), anthropology (6.6 percent), philosophy (6.2 percent) and construction services (6.1 percent). The data analysed was for those between the ages of 22 to 27.

The lowest unemployment rates were among those who majored in theology and religion (1.0 percent), medical technology (1.0 percent) and early childhood education (1.7 percent).

3. Don’t be flimflammed by alumni lists

Universities usually advertise their alumni success stories as proof of the quality of their institution. Past graduates in notable positions and companies are advertised as a link current students can use to open doors when applying for jobs.

A 2018 Gallup survey of 5,100 graduates found that the vast majority (69 percent) of graduates found that alumni networks were “neither helpful nor unhelpful” in helping them land a job. Another 22 percent reported they had been unhelpful. Only nine percent of graduates said they have been helpful or very helpful.

Graduates from top 50-ranked US News colleges and universities may perceive their alumni network as more helpful, but the differences are “relatively minor”. The Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey also found that alumni network helpfulness does not differ for graduates from different majors, genders or by the size or control of the institution (public versus private) they attended.

4. Check out genuine graduate reviews

UniAdvisor – think TripAdvisor but for international education – lets you search for graduate reviews of their alma maters. Four scores are kept: international student population, university satisfaction, country satisfaction and employment satisfaction. You can look closer into the last metric, which includes information such as time to get graduate job, average graduate income and average alumni income. It even includes reviews on more international student-centric issues such as “Equal opportunity to job as an international student”, the relevance of one’s education and access to internships.

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