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Finance considered most stable career as 70% of graduates prioritise salary in job hunt 

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– Fear of low pay and desire for a “good salary” are top of mind for UK graduates and current students, according to the CFA Institute 2023 Global Graduate Outlook Survey.  

Nearly three in four (70%) respondents said a good salary was the top priority when choosing a career, a 23% increase on the 47% figure from the survey’s previous findings in 2021. Whilst one in three (37%) said that low pay in their preferred sector, even in traditionally well-paid industries like finance or investment, is their biggest concern regarding their career prospects. 

Preoccupation with salary means UK graduates and current students feel more pessimistic about their job prospects than their global counterparts, with one in three (32%) saying they are not confident about their futures, compared to one in four (25%) globally. Concerningly less than half (48%) of UK respondents believe they have better career prospects than their parents’ generation, less than the global average (56%). 

The survey also found that attitudes towards careers in specific industries are changing, with finance emerging as the most popular career choice for recent graduates and current students in the UK, overtaking medicine which came out on top in 2021. 

Rhodri Preece, CFA, Senior Head, Research, CFA Institute, said:  “The results illustrate the extent to which salary is front of mind as graduates begin their careers amidst the rising cost-of-living, persistent inflation and weak economic growth. This is all directly impacting their career choices and it is no surprise that graduates are seeking out industries that traditionally offer higher pay, in the hope of having a more stable, secure career.” 

Graduates convinced by importance of qualifications and upskilling 

The good news is, whilst UK graduates and students may lack confidence in their future career prospects, they do see skills and training to access new job opportunities and combat the financial pressures. 

Over nine in ten (93%) said upskilling and professional/post-graduate qualifications are important in the current job market, with two in three (68%) saying their earnings prospects have improved by completing a postgrad or professional qualification.  

Rhodri Preece, continues: “Graduates’ confidence in the benefits of a degree and postgraduate study illustrates a recognition in the importance of possessing career-ready skills. It is also encouraging to see so many proactively seeking out opportunities – 64% of UK graduates said they had sought out training from their employer, over twice as many as graduates globally (30). Employers should be assessing what opportunities they offer to ensure they are meeting the demands of the next generation of talent.  

“Recent enhancements to the CFA Program, the qualification held by thousands of working professionals in finance and investment, seeks to meet these objectives. The addition of practical, on-the-job applications in AI and Python, a commitment to limit the number of study hours, and allowing undergraduates to enrol in the Program one year earlier, are designed to make a studying for a career in finance more accessible and easier to balance alongside existing commitments, and we encourage employers to constantly assess what training opportunities they offer to ensure they are responding to the needs of the next generation of talent.” 

Graduates see finance as the top-rated career, with healthcare and medicine as less stable and attractive  

Salary prioritisation means the desirability of certain careers has shifted, and the pursuit of more vocational careers such as teaching no longer as attractive. Nearly one in three (29%) of respondents said they view finance as the most stable career choice, up from 16% in 2021, closely followed by STEM, with one in four (26%) viewing it as stable, up from 9% in 2021. 

UK graduates rank the top 10 most stable and attractive careers:   

Finance and Investment up from #4 in 2021 
STEM up from #12 (joint) in 2021 
IT & Telecoms up from #9 (joint) in 2021 
Education down from #2 (joint) in 2021 
Healthcare down from #2 (joint) in 2021 
Law unchanged from #6 (joint) in 2021 
Medicine down from #1 in 2021 
Government down from #5 in 2021 
Advertising, PR & Marketing up from #15 (joint) in 2021 
Public Services/Intelligence down from #6 (joint) in 2021 

Healthcare and medicine, which usually top such lists, saw a decrease in confidence amongst graduates, with 15% and 14% of respondents respectively saying they considered these career choices stable. In 2021, 19% of respondents said they viewed healthcare as a stable career choice, compared to 21% for medicine.  

The insights come from a global survey commissioned by CFA Institute, the global association of investment professionals, of nearly 10,000 current university students and recent graduates, aged 18-25. Of those surveyed, 1,000 respondents were in the UK. 

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