Master’s and doctoral graduates from the University of Helsinki happy with their degrees, general career skills in demand
Master’s degree graduates from the University of Helsinki easily find employment, but there are rough patches at the beginning of careers. Doctoral graduates’ satisfaction with the various aspects of their degree is growing, indicates a career monitoring survey for universities.

Five years after graduation, 91% of those who graduated in 2012 from the University of Helsinki with a master’s degree, a Bachelor of Science (Pharmacy) degree or a Bachelor of Arts (Education) degree in kindergarten teacher education were employed. From this group, 3% were unemployed and 6% outside the labour force, as indicated for the University of Helsinki by a career monitoring survey published on 11 June. The national results of the Aarresaari network career monitoring survey for university career and recruitment services were released 7 June.

The fragmented nature of the labour market in the 2010s has left its mark on master’s degree graduates.

“Of all respondents, 34% have been unemployed after graduation. The number has grown one percentage point from the previous survey, conducted in 2016. Luckily, the labour market has seen improvement since late 2016, and the unemployment rate is currently rapidly decreasing,” says Eric Carver, a career counsellor at University of Helsinki Career Services.

The share of graduates with experience of unemployment varies extensively between fields of education. At the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine, Educational Sciences, Law and Theology, this share grew compared to the previous survey. For graduates of other faculties, the situation improved a little or didn’t change.

Entrepreneurial activity increasing, the quality of education and its correspondence with employment considered good

According to the survey, the most important factor that impacts finding work for graduates with a master’s degree or a degree in pharmacy or kindergarten teacher education is the ability to describe their personal skills, a finding already familiar from the previous survey. Other highlighted factors that promote employment are work experience, the combination of subjects in the degree, networks and traineeships.

The most common employer sectors for University of Helsinki graduates were businesses, municipalities and joint municipal authorities, with almost 60% of respondents working in these three sectors. The next largest sectors were universities and the voluntary sector, including organisations, foundations, parishes and the like.

“More than 20% of graduates have worked as entrepreneurs, self-employed professionals or freelancers after graduation. The majority of this group have been part-time entrepreneurs. From a long-term perspective, it seems that this phenomenon is becoming increasingly prevalent,” notes Carver.

The results indicate that master’s degree holders, pharmacists and kindergarten teachers from the University of Helsinki are for the most part satisfied with their degree.

From the perspective of the skill requirements of employers, university education has clear and identifiable strengths, but also areas to be developed further.

“Respondents feel that they are able to utilise the knowhow gained at the University well in their work. However, additional contributions to general career skills are expected. Among the matters highlighted in the responses were the significance of negotiation skills, stress tolerance, as well as cooperation and project management skills in professional life,” says Carver.

Periods of unemployment increasingly common among recent doctoral graduates

Three years after graduation, 93% of doctoral graduates from 2014 were employed. Their unemployment rate was 4.5%, while 2.5% of respondents were outside the labour force.

The majority of University of Helsinki doctoral graduates conducted research as their primary duty. The most common employer sectors were universities, businesses and municipalities or joint municipal authorities.

According to Carver, the responses give cause for concern about the increasing prevalence of unemployment periods for recent doctoral graduates.

“Particularly in the humanities, more and more doctoral graduates have been out of work at the beginning of their careers. The difference compared to prior surveys is at least partly explained by intensified competition for research funding.”

Satisfaction with the various aspects of doctoral degrees on the rise

Among the doctoral graduates who responded to the career monitoring survey at the University of Helsinki, 87% expressed satisfaction with their degree relative to their career.

“What is positive is that satisfaction with degrees has grown in all sections included in the survey: competence related to the subject of the research field, methodological and research method competence, expertise, research ethics and science communication,” lists Carver.

Compared to earlier surveys, the expectations related to the content of education that received the most increased emphasis were entrepreneurship, teaching skills, management skills and career planning.

“When developing doctoral education, it is essential to ensure that, in addition to research skills, the development of skills in interaction, teaching, project management, communications and career planning is supported,” stresses Carver.