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Graduates opting for work over education, and tech industry offering highest salaries.

CSO Ireland's report on graduate destinations and earnings paints informing picture of Irish economy.

Graduates opting for work over education, and tech industry offering highest salaries.

Key takeaways from CSO Ireland's Higher and Further Education Outcomes (2012-2016) reports
- Significant increase in graduates opting to enter workforce one year after graduation, rather than pursue postgraduate education (based on 2010 vs 2016 graduates).

- Tech graduates command the highest earnings, based on 2012 graduates five years after graduating.
- Number of Further Education graduates progressing to Higher Education increased between 2010 and 2016.
- Most graduates (Class of 2012) employed in Wholesale and Retail Trade after one year. After five years, majority of graduates are employed in Education sector.



A comprehensive study on graduate earnings by the Central Statistics Office, compiled from over 300,000 individual graduations, has produced valuable findings on the experience of graduates in the years after college. The insights, gathered from the PAYE system, illustrate the sectors in which graduates are employed and also highlight the industries where graduates can expect to command the highest earnings in the years following graduation.

What Do Graduates Do?

The CSO's study identified the initial destinations of the class of 2016 graduates, showing the percentage continuing to postgraduate education and the proportion entering the workforce. Out of those graduating in 2016, 26.9% re-enrolled in Higher Education after completing studies, while 58.8% were in "substantial employment". Taking into account the graduates engaged in post-graduate study and working simultaneously, the CSO determined that roughly 80% of graduates were in "substantial employment" in their first year after graduating.

Then and Now

The statistics paint an informing picture of the condition of the Irish economy in 2016 and this becomes increasingly clear when the statistics are compared to those of the CSO's previous Higher Education Outcomes Study. Statistical comparisons show a significant increase in the number of graduates opting for employment over postgraduate education. In 2010, roughly one third of graduates were re-enrolling in education in the first year after completing their studies and the number entering employment was lower than in 2016, with the percentage entering the workforce sitting at around 66%. Between 2010 and 2016, there was a year-on-year increase in the number of graduates stepping on to the career ladder, which is indicative of an annual increase in opportunities for those finishing college in Ireland.   


Source: CSO Ireland

Where Do Graduates Work?

The sectors graduates work in are both reflective of the courses they study at college and the graduate opportunities available within the economy. Most 2016 graduates (14.6%) were employed in the Wholesale & Retail Trade sector after completing their studies, with the Education, and Health & Social Work sectors following closely behind. According to data from a study on the destinations of graduates 5 years after leaving college, most graduates (17.3%, based on graduates from 2012) were working in the Education sector. While the majority of 2012 graduates, like 2016 graduates, were working in the Wholesale and Retail Trade in their first year after completing their studies, this number drops significantly three years after graduation, and again after 5 years.

How Much Do Graduates Earn?
Salaries vary significantly from sector to sector and starting salaries for graduates are no different. The median weekly earnings for graduates (Level 8 honours degrees) in the year after completing their studies stands at €475 per week. Education graduates earned the most in the first year after leaving college, earning €625 per week, whereas Arts & Humanities graduates have the lowest weekly earnings at €355 per week.

While Education graduates are the highest earners in the first year following graduation, this does not last long, and they are quickly surpassed by those working in the Information and Communication Technologies sector. According to statistics compiled from those who graduated in 2012, tech graduates are the highest earners three years after graduation. Five years after they had graduated, tech graduates were earning €815 per week, which was almost €100 more than the next industry. The report makes it clear that a few years of experience in a particular industry can make a big difference in where graduates' earnings fall in the rankings.  

Gender Pay Gap

The worldwide trend of female employees earning less than their male counterparts was echoed within the report's findings. Median earnings for male graduates stood at €485 per week, for females it was €470, with the median weekly earnings for all graduates at €475. The study also showed a divergence in the sectors where the majority of male and female graduates were employed; the majority of male graduates (15.4%) found employment in the Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities sector, whereas most females (17.7%) were employed in Health & Social Work. While this salary gap exists, it has reduced by €10 per week since 2010.

Further Education & Apprenticeships



Source: CSO Ireland

62.2% of graduates of Further Education courses in 2016 were found to be in "substantial employment" within a year of graduating, which was up from 46.6% in 2010. Those who pursued education within 12 months of their graduation comprised 63.2% of the Further Education graduates of 2016. The number of Further Education graduates from 2016 in Higher Education courses rose to 30.4% versus 27.2% in 2010.

The number of apprentices qualifying in 2016 decreased dramatically versus 2010, dropping from 3,295 to 1,220. Despite this drop in the uptake of apprenticeships over the years, employment levels for apprentices were high; 80% of those who qualified in 2014 were in employment in 2016. The domination of the construction industry in the apprenticeship system was solidified by the fact that 6 in 10 apprentices, of the 2014 class, were working in the industry.  

While these figures concerning apprenticeships may paint a pessimistic picture, there has actually been in increase in the number of people opting to do apprenticeships since 2016. In 2018, nearly 13,000 young people decided to pursue an apprenticeship scheme. In recent years, the range of industries offering apprenticeship options has broadened quite significantly, with Accountancy, Insurance, and ICT options available to apprentices. Despite the impression this study's statistics create, the future for apprenticeships looks very promising.

To view all of the CSO’s findings, click here for Higher Education, and here for Futher Education and Apprenticeships.

To find out more about all Career Sectors, click here.
To see detailed Labour Market Information, click here.

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