Unemployment A ‘Reality’ For Graduates

Ellie Matthews

Fashion journalism graduate Ellie Mathews

A look behind recent graduate employment figures suggest that prospects are bleak for those looking to break into journalism, according to Ellie Mathews…

At school we are told that good grades get us ahead and that hard work will get us into the university we want. University convinces us that working our backsides off for nine months of the final year gets us a first class degree. Graduating has taught me, however, that all that hard work is usually not enough.

Unemployment is not just a fear for graduates – it’s a reality. Even the top universities for journalism and media studies cannot seem to ensure jobs. For example, take a look at Newcastle University – despite UniStats reporting 100% student satisfaction, only 75% of last year’s media graduates are in work.

At first, that seems like a healthy figure – until you read that 30% of those are in non-professional jobs. That’s a large portion of graduates who aren’t putting their degree to use.

And this theme is common across the board. Nearly half of employed UWE Bristol graduates are working in non-professional jobs. At Bedford University, the figure is 55% and at Cumbria University it stands at 60%.

The most shocking statistic is from Derby University, where 80% of employed media graduates are working in non-professional roles.

Even those who have found work aren’t guaranteed much financial security. The University of the Arts, which ranks at 53 in the Guardian’s University Guide for 2014 (and which I attended) has an employment rate of 65%, who are earning, on average, just £16,000 per annum.

This wage hardly covers the rent of living in London, let alone travel costs and bills. Georgina, who graduated from UAL this year with a 2:1 in journalism and works full time as a copy writer, tells me: “I am having to rely on my parents more since graduating. I haven’t been asked about [my degree] at any interviews I have been to and I’ve been told by recruiters to list it far more briefly on my CV than I have done so in the past”

With recruiters placing less emphasis on the importance of a media degree, what are the reasons tempting new students into university? More often than not it’s the idea of accessing tutors’ little black books of contacts and the possibility of internships that they bring.

Georgia says: “University essentially taught me that you have to fight for your own rights, opportunities and equality as nobody else will. I feel very strongly about the fact that universities sell this concept of ‘industry contacts’ and help with ‘work experience’ to lure students into paying fees.”

As we all know, the fees universities are able to charge are steadily rising. English graduates in 2012 reached average debt levels of £43,500, according to The Telegraph.

In 2013 The Mail on Sunday reported that up to 85% of students will never pay their debt back and, with rising university costs, more and more taxpayers’ money will be used to cover student payments.

Of course, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Despite mounting costs, debilitating statistics and the negativity surrounding employment, there are ways to put a journalism degree to use.

Many courses now cover the development of digital platforms for the media, a skill which graduates can use to create their own websites – something which, in the digital era, has become a necessity for job seekers.

Even if graduates cannot find freelance work at entry level, blogging continues to be a huge trend. Those with journalism degrees can set themselves apart from other bloggers with their skills and understanding of the media.

Do you agree with Ellie’s post? Do grads face a lack of job prospects or are you optimistic of finding work? Share your thoughts by commenting below or joining the debate on Twitter with @Journograds

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