Careers advice and planning

Graduate job market trends in 2024

29 Jan 2024, 09:58

What does the 2024 graduate job market look like? Find out what recruitment trends are emerging, to help inform your graduate career planning.

Images shows man at computer, smiling, with coffee

The number of students who want to start a job after university rather than undertake postgraduate studies is increasing, according to the latest survey conducted by targetjobs’ sister company Cibyl, a leading student market research agency in the UK and Ireland that conducts annual surveys of over 100,000 students. If you’re one of the 71% of those ready to start a graduate job this year, you’re probably keen to know what trends to expect in the word of graduate recruitment. Read on to find out.

Will I be able to get a job in 2024? | What sectors will be the most popular in 2024? | How much will graduate jobs pay in 2024? | Changes to employment law in 2024 | Will recruitment processes change in 2024?

Will I be able to get a job in 2024?

The simple answer to this is, the odds are good. The student labour market underwent an understandable fall during the coronavirus pandemic and jumped by an impressive 16% in the year following lockdown. According to the 2023 Institute of Student Employers (ISE) survey of its members – typically employers with some of the largest graduate programmes – employers are expecting a slight slowdown of 1% in 2024 compared to 2023 (when hiring jumped by 6%) but such a tiny fall shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.

If you’re feeling anxious about your job prospects, however, you’re not alone. Conflict and political turmoil in other parts of the world have led to supply chain shortages, and in the last year it feels unusual for a day to go by without hearing about another workers’ strike over pay and conditions. The good news is that most economists and investment analysts believe the UK will avoid the earlier threatened recession, but from your own experience, and if you keep an eye on the news, you will be aware that we are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

Finding a graduate job once you’ve left university is going to depend on your motivations, skills, qualifications and salary expectations. Choosing your first job after graduation is a very personal decision, of course, but being aware of some of the broad trends in the graduate jobs market can help you make this decision.

Further reading

Advice from targetjobs to help you start your job search.

Which job sectors will be the most popular for graduates in 2024?

Technology continues to be the most popular job sector for students, despite recent tech lay-offs. Once again Google is the employer of choice, according to the UK 300, the Cibyl survey determining the most popular 300 graduate employers.

The public sector is runner up in the list of most popular sectors. Meanwhile, the area least popular with students once again is the hospitality, leisure and tourism sector, remaining at the bottom of the table for the second year running. It’s likely that the impact the pandemic had on job security in this sector still weighs heavily on students’ minds.

When it comes to actual vacancies, of the 1200 jobs and opportunities advertised on targetjobs at the time of writing, the sector with the most roles available currently is accounting and finance, closely followed by management and business, and then technology roles. You can find top advice on applying for and securing roles in these sectors – and many more – onsite.

Job sectors keen for new hires are, as is often the case, those traditionally considered among the most rewarding of professions (although not in salary). Some of these have experienced strike action in the last year due to workers demanding better pay, benefits and working conditions. See our advice about careers in teaching , healthcare and the public sector .

How much money will I make in 2024?

Students’ salary expectations are the highest they’ve been in five years, according to Cibyl. 70% of students worry about money daily or weekly – hardly surprising when you consider the current economic situation in the UK. In good news, however, according to ISE, despite graduate salaries decreasing overall when prices are adjusted to 2023 levels using the Consumer Price Index, the typical (median) salary reported by employers was £32,000 for graduates (a 3% increase from last year), £22,000 for school and college leavers (5% increase), £23,306 for interns (6% increase) and £23,000 for placement students (7% increase). There are some sectors that consistently pay higher salaries than others, of course, with the legal sector and finance and professional services leading the way.

There will be more competition for graduate roles in the coming year, according to the ISE survey: graduate applications per vacancy increased through 2023, up by 38%, with an average of 86 applications per vacancy. As always, our advice on how to make sure your application stands out and secure the graduate job you want remains, in a nutshell: do your research on the employer you’re interested in , take time to craft the best application you can and prepare well for the selection process.

Only 18% of employers surveyed by ISE do not set any minimum requirements for candidates. More than 80% still view a degree as a fundamental qualification for their graduate hires, although employers requiring a 2.1 degree have dropped from 48% last year to 44% this year.

Half of employers responding to the ISE survey said that their recruitment will focus more this coming year on candidates’ skills, rather than their education or work experience. Now is a great time to do a skills audit: do you have the top 10 skills employers are looking for ? Could you set aside some time to further develop the skills you have and add some more to your skills toolkit? Make sure when applying that you demonstrate you possess the skills mentioned in the description of the job you’re going for.

Employers still recruit many of their graduates from their intern or placement programmes (40-50%), although last year this number dropped slightly. While there is no doubt that work experience with the employer of your choice will stand you in good stead (especially, for example, in the banking sector), not having interned with an employer should not put you off applying.

What changes will there be in employment law in 2024?

It’s a good idea to be aware of new legislation when you start looking for a graduate role, as some changes could be pertinent to your individual circumstances. Here are three key changes coming into effect in 2024:

  • The national living wage . This will rise from £10.42 to £11.44 per hour from 1 April, an increase of almost 10%.
  • Greater flexibility . From April 2024, from day one of starting a new job (as opposed to the requirement at the time of writing of needing 26 weeks of continuous employment before making such a request), you will have the right to make a flexible working request, such as part time, term time, flexi-time, compressed hours and adjustable start and finish times.
  • Caring responsibilities . From April 2024, a carer will be entitled to take one week’s unpaid leave, which can be taken in individual or half days, during a 12-month period to look after a dependant with a long-term care need (eg illness, injury, disability or old age).

What will recruitment processes look like in 2024?

For the third year in a row, the Cibyl survey revealed that only a small number of students actively prefer engaging with employers virtually – just 17%. You can, and should try to, if possible, meet employers in person at careers events, but you need to expect that most employers will include some virtual aspects in their recruitment processes. The key is to make them work for you: you can get great tips on how to make the most of a virtual recruitment process from our articles on virtual interviews and virtual assessment centres .

An increased interest in skills by recruiters, as mentioned above, may see an increase in popularity for strengths-based interviews .

What is increasing amongst the ISE members surveyed is the use of AI within the recruitment process. Last year 28% of employers used it, compared to 9% the year before, with its popularity at its highest in the energy, engineering and industry sector. The most frequent use of AI is in online psychometric assessments.

Good luck for 2024

We hope this article was useful in giving an overview of basic recruitment trends in early 2024. If you need more help with career planning, why not check out our dedicated section on graduate career ideas . And if you’re ready to start your graduate job search , go for it! Don’t forget to register with targetjobs to get the latest jobs and advice updates based on what’s important to you.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

People reading this also searched for roles in these areas:

undefined background image

We've got you

Get the latest jobs, internships, careers advice, courses and graduate events based on what's important to you. Start connecting directly with top employers today.