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Graduate jobs: The best places for graduates to live and work

Graduates in the UK are entering the workforce at an exciting, yet culturally significant time. Businesses are learning how to deal with new norms such as working from home, flexible hours, and various other modern business demands. This, along with the rise in the cost of living, makes deciding where to look for graduate employment and how to find a good graduate job a tricky endeavour.

Luckily, Distinct is here to help you find easy graduate employment. As a leading  Nottingham recruitment agency, we match supportive businesses with motivated candidates across the UK.

To help you get started on your graduate employment journey, we’ve investigated where to look for high-paid graduate jobs and which cities are best suited to graduate work. 

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How have graduate jobs changed since the lockdown? | Issues facing graduate employment | How to find high paid graduate jobs | Cheapest cities to live in: The hidden factor | Work with Distinct

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that data post-lockdown is still coming out and making predictions isn’t an exact science. As the market stabilises, we’ll see more reliable figures and trends – but it’s good to know where you stand when starting your post-graduate career.

How have graduate jobs changed since the lockdown?

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic had a negative impact on graduate employment as many businesses streamlined their costs to ensure they could remain open. Thankfully, the latest statistics from the ONS show how this has changed in 2022 with the spike in unemployment dropping to 3.7% for all people aged 16+. This is reflected in the employment percentage reaching 75.7% with a further 21.4% economically inactive.

Data from the UK ONS shows that the market for graduate employment and high-paid graduate jobs is growing)

These graphs show that the market for graduate employment and high-paid graduate jobs is growing as companies look to expand and fill the roles left by employees moving on.

With that said, we’re going to briefly look at the issues graduates face and where to look for high-paid graduate jobs.

Employment issues faced by graduates

Some of the issues facing graduates are digital in nature. Competing with other graduates for remote work means more competition for places. Once you’ve found a role, it can be difficult to settle in, especially if your office is a work-from-home environment. 

Getting to know your colleagues, learning processes, and planning your training online can all become that much trickier. Fortunately, most businesses have a vested interest in training and improving their staff and will go to great lengths to ensure everyone is upskilled and comfortable with the demands of their role.

How to find high-paid graduate jobs

When looking for graduate work it’s best to consider the industries that are most likely to offer graduate roles. The Graduate Market in 2022 (produced by High Fliers Research) studied The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and discovered some key insights.

First of all, there is an abundance of graduate opportunities in 2022. Following opportunities initially going down by 12.3% in 2020, we then saw them increase by  9.4% in 2021, and currently, they are now up by 15.7% in 2022. This figure can be further broken down by sector to show which industries have the most opportunities for graduate employment…

The top 5 sectors for graduate jobs (increase in recruitment targets):

  • Retail: +70.8% 
  • Engineering & Industrial: +32.2%
  • Media: +31.6%
  • Charity & Volunteering: +16.5%
  • Technology: +16.4%

The 5 worst sectors for graduate jobs:

  • Oil & Energy: -40.1%
  • Banking & Finance: -14%
  • Chemicals & Pharma: -5%
  • Public sector: -4.2%
  • Consumer goods: -4%

These figures show the general trend of leading global companies and may provide insight into how SMEs may follow suit. Regardless of the industry, you’ll find that remote work opportunities can add to the regular availability of local jobs, making it easier for you to compete and get your foot in the door.

The cheapest cities for graduates to live in

Salaries aren’t the only factor determining the best place for graduate employment. A high-paid graduate job counts for little if your living costs and everyday expenses are high too. 

Luminate’s investigation into the cities that give graduates the best value for their salary looks into this. The study highlights a general trend for disposable income and purchasing power but it is by no means absolute. The study uses average graduate salaries in the area and compares them to the average living costs in a given city.

For context, London is given a score of 1 as a control, with other cities compared to this figure.

Interestingly, the top 5 cities with the highest indexed disposable income measure (in 2019) were:

City  Indexed disposable income measure       Graduate starting salary
Derby                              1.637                    £22,840
Sheffield                              1.483                    £20,633
Belfast                              1.474                    £20,700
Coventry                              1.464                     £22,548
Portsmouth                              1.439                    £23,446

The results for purchasing power show similar results:

City  Local graduate starting salary purchasing index          Graduate starting salary
Derby                                  103.43                        £22,840
Southampton                                    95.77                        £20,518
Coventry                                    94.95                        £22,548
Leicester                                    90.44                        £19,964
Liverpool                                    80.97                        £19,940

Unsurprisingly London scores low on both these charts with high property prices and living costs. Instead, the cities with the best-paying jobs for graduates are ones that cater to well-paid jobs (such as engineering and IT) in cities with a relatively low cost of living. This data shows that graduates who choose to stay closer to home in places outside of the capital for lower salaries are more likely to have better buying power when compared to graduates who move to expensive cities for a higher salary.

Work with Distinct 

If you need a hand finding a graduate job or want to learn how Distinct matches employers and candidates, let’s talk. Contact us today to discuss vacancies we’re representing which may be suitable for graduates.

As leaders in the field, we offer a personal touch that takes into account every aspect of the role and person required. When you’re a client with us, we’ll help to match you with motivated graduates ready to take the first step in their careers. We take the time to understand both your organisation and our candidates, in order to ensure the right fit, the first time around.


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