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Employment rates for social science graduates similar to those of graduates in STEM subjects says Campaign’s latest research

June 8, 2018

Nearly 4 out of 10 students graduate from university with a social science degree. What are their career opportunities? What makes a difference to their employment chances? With employment opportunities and wage returns expected to be a dominant theme of the post-18 education review launched earlier this year Positive Prospects, a new report from the Campaign for Social Science, published by SAGE Publishing, provides a vital insight into the career outlook for social science graduates, highlighting how having number and data skills give graduates more work choices.

Key findings include:

  • After their undergraduate degrees, they go on to work in wide range of sectors and occupations.

  • The employment rates of social science graduates are similar to those of graduates in STEM subjects.

  • Though there is much variation within both social sciences and STM subjects, it is an oversimplification to see a simple STEM / non-STEM divide.

  • Nine in ten social science graduates are working, continuing their studies, or both, a year after graduation.

  • They also do well in terms of salary, and their earnings improve over their careers.

Dr Ashley Lenihan, Senior Policy Advisor at the Campaign for Social Science, and the lead author of the report, said:

“We have brought together a range of evidence to show that the employment prospects for social science graduates in the UK are strong and similar to STEM. This is important, because the STEM / Non-STEM divide in this area has been oversimplified in public debate. We also highlight a variety of different steps that can be taken – by individual students, schools, and government – that could widen the future choices for individual graduates, benefit the economy, and enhance the ability of social science to ask and answer important questions.”

The report uses data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the Department of Education’s Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset, and other published studies and examines the future of work for UK social scientists in light of the digital revolution. It found that:

  • Social science gradu­ates are valued by employers for their discipline-specific knowledge, critical analysis, and writing skills – all vital in the professional and management jobs for which they are often hired.

  • But in many of today’s jobs – and for almost every challenge faced by the UK – there is a need to join social scientists’ general ana­lytic skills and knowledge of society with a better understanding and use of data.

  • To widen individual choices of graduates and meet social needs, the report shows the importance of social scientists having stronger number and data skills, alongside their ability to use all forms of information to describe and analyse the world around them.

Ziyad Marar, President, Global Publishing, SAGE, remarked:

“SAGE has long championed the value of research methods in social science through our publishing, and has latterly focused on skills around big data and new technology. This report shows how important data and number skills are at all levels, especially for students, and is a part of an ongoing series of collaborative efforts between SAGE and the Campaign to ensure that the value of social science more generally is recognised and sustained.”

This is particularly important in light of recent falls in uptake of AS mathematics, the limited availability of Core Maths, and the relatively low number and data content in many social science A-level curricula. All of these are potential areas for improvement if the UK is to meet the aspiration for near universal engagement with numbers and data at secondary school level.

Summaries for students and graduates, as well as some disciplines are available on the Campaign’s website.



The Academy of Social Sciences’ Campaign for Social Science was launched to raise the profile of social science in the public, media and Parliament. Its activities include lobbying government, organising events, promoting social sciences in the media and monitoring the health of academia in the UK.

Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 1,000 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. Our growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington, D.C. and Melbourne. 

Positive Prospects: Careers for social science graduates and why number and data skills matter’ is the latest report from the Campaign for Social Science. It is published and supported by SAGE Publishing. ‘Positive Prospects’ follows What do social science graduates do?, published in 2013, which looked at the employment rates and destinations of UK social science graduates from 2008/09 three and a half years after graduation.


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