Graduates report – Industries


Social scientists take up these occupations in a broad range of industries across the public, private and third sectors.

Higher proportions of social scientists are employed in ‘professional, scientific and technical activities’ than any other subject group. (Industries are classified according to the 2007 Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities SIC 2007 (pdf download) as published by the Office for National Statistics.)

This industry accounts for 1 in 5 employed social scientists (19.8%) – a considerably greater proportion than STEM (10.9%) or arts-humanities (14.2%) graduates. Social scientists remain more highly represented than STEM graduates even after discounting law and architecture graduates, whose vocational degrees are likely to steer them towards professional activities in particular.

The types of work classified under this category include experimental and market research (such as Elisabeth Brickell, a sociology graduate who works for GfK National Opinion Polling); management consultancy; advertising; accounting, book-keeping, auditing and legal activities; industrial design and architectural activities; labour recruitment and many others. Elisabeth’s case study.

Likewise, nearly twice the proportion of social scientists is employed in ‘financial and insurance activities’ compared with STEM or arts-humanities graduates – 7.1% compared with 3.7% and 3.9% respectively. This includes occupations in banks, insurance and pension funding, and other kinds of financial management. Graduates of business and administrative studies, social studies and law and are particularly represented, such as Gosia Slominski who studied economics at Cardiff and is now an Executive Management Trainee on the HSBC graduate scheme. Gosia’s case study

After discounting graduates with degrees specifically in education (of whom 78.7% enter employment in the same industry), a smaller proportion of social scientists is employed in education (10.4%) than either STEM (14.3%) or arts-humanities graduates (25.4%). This appears consistent with the low content of social science in the National Curriculum. Nevertheless social scientists who become teachers may teach a range of subjects related to their degree: Tom Holder, an Oxford graduate of Politics, Philosophy and Economics, joined the Teach First Leadership Development Programme as an economics, business studies, philosophy and maths teacher in a secondary school. Tom’s case study

The proportion of social science graduates employed in ‘human health and social work activities’ (12.6%) is less than half that of either STEM graduates (34.2%) – even after discounting those who studied medicine or dentistry (which brings the STEM proportion down to 28.4%). (The proportions may be closer than the data suggests, given that psychology graduates, although social scientists, are submerged under the category of ‘biological sciences’ under the JACS2 codes: see Notes on Subject Data).

Examples cited in the Higher Education Careers Service Unit publication, ‘What Do Graduates Do?’, include a politics graduate employed as a youth advice worker for a charity, and a psychology graduate working as a rehabilitation coordinator at a health and social care company.

1 in 13 social science graduates (7.7%) work in ‘public administration and defence’ or ‘compulsory social security.’ This sector includes activities in central, regional and local government, the provision of community services, and judicial activities, among others. Michael Payne, for example, who graduated in law from the University of Lancaster in 2008, went into politics: he is currently Deputy Leader of Gedling Borough Council. Just 3.7% of social scientists work in ‘administrative or support service activities.’ Michael’s case study

Proportions of social scientists in ‘manufacturing’ or ‘information and communication’ are lower than those of STEM or arts-humanities graduates. Those in ‘wholesale and retail trade, and repair’ are fractionally higher than STEM graduates but lower than the national graduate average.

See the chart below for the industries in which social science graduates are employed after 3.5 years.

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