Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 26–40 | Cite as

Where Do All the STEM Graduates Go? Higher Education, the Labour Market and Career Trajectories in the UK

  • Emma SmithEmail author
  • Patrick White


Problems with the supply of highly skilled science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers have been reported by employers and governments for many decades, in the UK, the USA, and elsewhere. This paper presents some key findings from a project funded by the Nuffield Foundation that examined patterns of education and employment among STEM graduates in the UK. Five large-scale secondary datasets—comprising administrative, survey, cross-sectional and longitudinal data—were analysed in order to provide the most comprehensive account possible. The findings suggest that there is no overall shortage of STEM graduates but there is considerable variation in the career outcomes and trajectories of different groups. Recruitment to STEM degrees has stalled over the past 20 years but most STEM graduates never work in highly skilled STEM jobs—in any case, the majority of professional STEM workers do not have (or presumably need) degrees. Some groups of STEM graduates are currently under-represented in the highly skilled STEM workforce and increased recruitment from these groups could grow the numbers entering STEM occupations. However, employers may have to modify their views on exactly what constitutes a valuable or desirable employee and to what extent it is their responsibility to train their workers.


STEM graduates Higher education Labour shortages 


Funding Information

The research presented in this paper was supported by funding from the Nuffield Foundation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

The research uses large-scale secondary datasets. No data was directly collected from human participants.

Informed Consent

Ethical procedures and those governing information consent were followed during the primary data collection phase.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Education StudiesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.School of Media, Communication and SociologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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