The number of science graduates are growing but the jobs are not

by Andrew Norton

Many recent science and information technology graduates are failing to find full-time work at a time when science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is a priority for government and industry, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

Mapping Australian higher education 2016 shows that in 2015, only half of bachelor degree science graduates seeking full-time work had found it four months after completing their degrees, 17 percentage points below the average for all graduates.

Among recent science graduates who found full-time jobs, only half say their qualification is required or important for their job – about 20 percentage points below the average.

Although job outcomes improve over time, science bachelor degree graduates are less likely than other STEM graduates to work in high-skill managerial or professional jobs.

Mapping Australian higher education 2016, Grattan Institute’s regular overview of key trends in higher education, focuses on STEM graduate employment.

Grattan Institute Higher Education Program Director Andrew Norton says that despite poor employment outcomes, demand for science courses continues to grow.

‘Prospective students thinking about studying science need to know that a bachelor science degree is high risk for finding a job. Often students need to do another degree to improve their employment prospects,’ Mr Norton says.

While there are many more potential jobs in IT than science, a third of recent IT graduates cannot find full-time work.

IT students are less satisfied with their skills development, and are more likely to leave their courses without finishing, than are other students. IT industry and professional bodies suggest that university IT courses need improving.

Engineering graduates have better employment prospects than science or IT graduates.  Three-quarters of new engineering graduates have full-time work, and have the highest rate of professional or managerial employment of all STEM graduates.

In other trends examined in Mapping Australian higher education 2016, domestic enrolments exceeded one million for the first time in 2014, with the fastest growth in health.

International student numbers are growing again, after a fall between 2010 and 2012. Student satisfaction with teaching is also increasing.

Australia performs well in global research rankings, but in recent years levels of university research expenditure and outputs have stopped growing.

Read the report

For further enquiries:
Andrew Norton, Higher Education Program Director
T. 03 8344 3637 E. media@grattan.edu.au