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Maths helps maths graduates get professional jobs

The Destination of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE, pronounced ‘deli’) survey sends a questionnaire to all UK university graduates six months after graduation and this gives some idea of what happens to students once they graduate. It is flawed, but has a high response rate and is an interesting tool.

There is a second type of DLHE survey, which is longitudinal. This surveys graduates 3.5 years after graduation, and the 2010/11 longitudinal data has just been released. This deserves some investigation and I don’t have time right now, but I did notice a couple of tables that make me proud of my subject.

The first reports the proportions of graduates who are in jobs rated as ‘professional’ and ‘non-professional’. These data are taken from Table 8 of the 2010/11 DLHE longitudinal data set. I’ve chosen all levels (postgrad and undergrad) and ordered the data by percentage in professional jobs (descending). I’ve highlighted mathematical sciences, which includes maths, stats and operational research.

Level of qualification obtained, mode of study and subject area 2010/11 Total professional Total
non-professional
All levels
Medicine & dentistry 98.8% 1.2%
Veterinary science 92.9% 7.1%
Subjects allied to medicine 92.5% 7.5%
Architecture, building & planning 91.8% 8.2%
Education 87.7% 12.3%
Mathematical sciences 86.5% 13.5%
Computer science 86% 14%
Engineering & technology 84.6% 15.4%
Physical sciences 83.3% 16.7%
Law 81.7% 18.3%
Social studies 79.9% 20.1%
Business & administrative studies 77% 23%
Biological sciences 76.4% 23.6%
Combined 73.5% 26.5%
Languages 72.9% 27.1%
Historical & philosophical studies 72.5% 27.5%
Mass communications & documentation 71.6% 28.4%
Creative arts & design 67.2% 32.8%
Agriculture & related subjects 55.8% 44.2%

The second table is this one showing whether graduates felt the subject they studied was a formal requirement, important or helpful in gaining their current job. These data are from Table 15 of the 2010/11 DLHE longitudinal data set. Again, I’ve chosen all levels and I’ve ordered the table by those that felt their subject was not important (ascending). Again, I’ve highlighted maths.

Importance of the subject studied in 2010/11 in gaining current job.
Level of qualification obtained and subject area 2010/11 Formal requirement’,
‘Important’ or ‘Not very important but helped’
Not important
All levels
Veterinary science 97.3% 2.7%
Medicine & dentistry 96.4% 3.6%
Subjects allied to medicine 93.6% 6.4%
Education 91.7% 8.3%
Architecture, building & planning 87.8% 12.2%
Engineering & technology 87.7% 12.2%
Mathematical sciences 87.5% 12.5%
Computer science 84.7% 15.3%
Law 81.5% 18.5%
Business & administrative studies 81.1% 18.9%
Physical sciences 78.5% 21.5%
Social studies 77.1% 22.9%
Biological sciences 76.8% 23.2%
Agriculture & related subjects 75.9% 24.1%
Mass communications & documentation 73.2% 26.8%
Creative arts & design 70.7% 29.2%
Combined 68.7% 31.3%
Languages 68.6% 31.3%
Historical & philosophical studies 57.8% 42.2%

Looking at these tables fairly naively, I’d say there are some subjects represented which are really a profession for which you require a degree (medicine, education, architecture, engineering, law). A student might decide before coming to university “I want to be a doctor” and then take medicine. That’s okay, provided you know at that stage what you want to do with your life (I didn’t). Clearly not everyone who takes these subjects goes into the associated profession, but it is reasonable to expect a large number to do so, and therefore a high proportion in professional jobs.

Then there are subjects that I guess are aligned to a job sector, but less closely to a particular job. I’d put Physical sciences, Biological sciences and Computer science into this category. I suppose we’d expect a moderate number to progress from these into the associated job sectors, but many to go into more general employment.

Finally, there are subjects that are extensions of subjects done in school that I imagine are taken out of interest or ability in the subject, but which don’t align to a particular job or job sector. Here is where I’d put maths. We might expect that these students have less of a specific job goal in mind, so may end up further down the tables. And this is why I am proud of maths — as we tend to tell applicants, maths leads to lots of different jobs, and graduates 3.5 years into their career seem to be doing very well. I’d say maths is the top subject not aligned to a particular profession on both proportion in a professional job and proportion saying the subject was helpful or important in gaining their current job.

Well, I think it’s interesting, anyway. Kids: choose maths! ;)

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