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Which graduate careers are hotspots for jobs growth?

There’s no doubt that competition for graduate jobs remains extremely tough, and the latest survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) confirms this. However, what really matters to you is what’s going on in your chosen career sector. The AGR survey report, published today, has very good news about hiring in some areas. So what is really going on in the graduate jobs market?

Graduate growth areas: consulting, IT, public sector and more

Overall, graduate vacancies this year are down 4% on last year, but this average figure conceals some significant variations between sectors. Here’s the breakdown by career sector, showing the expected change in graduate vacancies from last year’s recruitment cycle (2011/12) to this year (2012/13):

Graduate starting pay with AGR employers

The median graduate starting salary identified by the survey was £26,500, with investment banks or fund managers offering the highest at £38,250. However, this is a membership survey, and AGR members tend to be large graduate employers, so the findings are not representative of all graduate recruitment. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) undertook a comprehensive survey of all 2012 graduates six months after graduation and found their median starting salary was £20,000.

Competition for vacancies increases

AGR members tend to be large, well-known graduate empoyers that attract high levels of applications. This year, the average number of applicants per vacancy was 85 – the highest ever recorded by the AGR survey.

Some career sectors reported receiving significantly more applications per vacancy than others; consumer goods companies received 211 per vacancy, whereas accountancy or professional services firms received 40. Recruiters felt that some graduates were adopting a scattergun approach and applying to numerous schemes. Some recruiters were also seeing an increase in interest in UK graduate roles from European graduates.

Given the higher volume of applications, it is not surprising that the recruitment process with many employers is getting longer. More than one-quarter (26.5%) said it took three months, while 15.7% of recruiters took longer than four months, up from 9.8% last year.

Internships are increasingly open to graduates too

Almost three-fifths (58%) of AGR employers reported that their placement and internship programmes were open to graduates as well as undergraduates in 2011/12. This was higher than in any of the previous three years.

One AGR member from the consulting or business services sector commented, ‘The market is flooded with really talented people who have already graduated and maybe got a bit of experience under their belts who are willing to do internships to get their foot in the door. From a business perspective, they’ve got a proven academic track record as well as more work experience.’

Nearly a third of employers (31.3%) recruit up to 20% of their graduate intake from their internship programmes. One member from the banking or financial services sector commented, ‘From both sides it’s an extended interview. It’s an opportunity for the employer to see that applicant in situ and getting to know their strengths and their potential. For the applicants, it’s test driving the company.’

Is the graduate jobs market relocating outside London?

London was expected to offer more graduate vacancies than any other area in the UK this year, at 37.7%. This represents a decrease compared to the last edition of the AGR survey, published in January, which predicted that 42.4% of graduate vacancies would be based in London this year. Vacancies available in most other areas are expected to increase, including in the south east, Scotland, the West Midlands, East Midlands and the south west. Employers attributed this change to a cost-saving approach which has led to staff being relocated outside London.