The basics
THE UK: Career Prospects

Finding a graduate career in the UK

Learn all about life after graduation for international students in the UK

Graduate Medical student

Armed with your fresh qualification, you’re finally ready to leave student life behind and take on ‘the real world’. But whilst life in the UK can be exhilarating and exciting, finding a job amidst the bustle can seem intimidating at best. EU students will not need a visa to study or work in the UK, but there are still plenty of opportunities for non-EU international students to remain in the country to work. Let our guide to your post-study options as an international student in the UK help make things a bit clearer.


What’s the graduate market like?

Named the fastest growing economy in Western Europe, job prospects in the UK are probably one of the brightest across the continent. The market for graduate jobs in the UK is at its strongest since 2007, with the service sector creating jobs at the fastest rate in four months.

At the end of 2013, graduates of Medicine (95%) and Medical-related subjects (93%) showed the highest proportion of employment, followed by Media and Information Studies (93%), Technology (92%), Agricultural Sciences (91%), Architecture (90%), Business and Finance (90%). Interestingly, the a 2013 BBC report named Social Science students as the most likely to gain employment, calling them the most likely to be in managerial or senior roles. 84.2% of Social Science graduates were said to have found employment within three years of completing their studies.

Employment vacancy trends have shown a 94.4% growth in available jobs in the public sector, followed by those in computing (77.1%) and retail (58.4%). Students in fields of IT, Computer Science and Software Engineering also face particularly good prospects: the computer industry is a key national employer, with IT services the leading producer of exports.

The UK’s fastest growing sector, the creative industries have also shown substantial advances in the past few years, making up 5.6% of the overall workforce. Film, television and music industries have been key driving forces for the sector, illuminating new opportunities for graduates of Media, Film, Writing and Sound Engineering.


Can I stay in the UK?

EU students do NOT need a visa to work or study in the UK, and so have the right to remain and pursue employment for as long as they’d like. Students NOT from the EU however will need to apply for a work visa to remain in the UK to work.

You will be able to apply for a work visa if you have either already been offered a professional job whilst still on your student visa, or meet specific investment or skill requirements. There are two general categories of work visas: Tier 1 and Tier 2.

There are a number of subcategories for each visa type depending on your specific circumstances, but most students who have been offered a job before their student visa expires will need to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa. Students eligible for Tier 1 visas will either need to demonstrate outstanding entrepreneurial qualities, substantial intention to invest in the UK or be endorsed by an accredited body for their exceptional talent in a particular field.

Eligibility requirements for each visa are incredibly specific, each with a separate set of fees, required documents, processing times and allowed duration of stay in the UK. You should check these details thoroughly on the visa section of the Immigration UK website.

The amount of time you’ll be able to stay in the UK after your student visa expires will vary depending on your study programme, and will be stipulated when you’re first granted your student visa. For example, study programmes of one year or more usually allow students four months to either apply to extend their visa or switch visa categories. Generally speaking though, to remain in the UK to work after you’ve finished studying you will need to have been offered a job of professional calibre, with a salary of at least £20,500 (US$34,458) before your student visa expires.

Check if you are an EU student


How can I find a job?

The UK is an incredibly big place with thousands and thousands of job openings across every imaginable sector. It can be intimidating to take on a foreign job market, let alone one so expansive and competitive. Regardless of your nationality, you will have access to the same job searching tools as local students, and should start out by sourcing some information about the current state of affairs in the UK and the state of the particular sector you’re looking to enter. This is also a great way to get an idea of some of the key players in your field, and potential paths to your ideal position. You can find a list of links to various industry reports and statistics on the RBA website, as well as an overview of the labour market on the UK National Statistics site.

Looking for a job online is probably your easiest bet. There is a broad range of websites and recruitment services available for job-seekers, most of which are free of charge. You should proceed with caution if you’re told you need to pay for a recruitment service: unless you have very specific needs or are very stuck, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to find a job on your own. You should take a look at, Monster or TotalJobs for a job search engine in any discipline, or simply search the name of your field and follow on from there. There are also many industry-specific search engines  that are likely to crop up, such as Mediargh for Media and Communications graduates,  or Just Engineers for students of Engineering.

Some bigger companies will advertise their vacancies directly from their website, so you should be sure to follow all the companies in your field you’d be interested in working for. A great way to do this is via Twitter, or by signing up for a newsletter if they provide one. Some companies will even give you the option to sign up for job alerts when a position that matches your search criteria becomes available.  You can also look in newspapers such as The Guardian or The Times for job ads, or consult Job Centre Plus: the national department for work and pensions. The UK Government website also has a thorough list of links to help point you in the right direction.


Can my university help?

You host university will always have a careers centre or student services office that at the very least will be able to point you in the right direction in looking for a job. For example, the University of Leeds runs a career centre with a separate set of services for international students that offers application advice, support, and help in approaching employers and lodging complete applications. You can also access information on market trends, search directly for a job and get advice on improving your CV.

You should always make your host university your first port of call in gaining advice and help securing a job. Thousands of international students seek employment in the UK every year and your host will be well versed in the processes you’ll need to go through, and how best you should begin your search.



Now that life after graduation doesn’t seem so scary, why not browse courses in the UK now and kick-start your plans to study abroad?



Read more:

'Post-study visa options in the UK'

'Working as a student in the UK'

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About Author

Graduate Medical student

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.


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