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Winning by Degrees

March 7th 2014

If you look deeper in the employment rates for UK graduates, the top subjects hold few surprises.  Number 1 is medicine, mainly because the strict limit on the number of medical students is matched to the number of junior doctors required by the NHS.  Other top 5 subjects include vet med (similar to medicine), law, education, accounting.  Maths is in a number 7 and the top tech (software engineering) is at 9.  So putting medicine aside, it seems the UK needs more lawyers and accountants compared to those with maths or tech.

In the US, the situation could not be more different.  OK, medicine is still up there (number 3) but behind computer science and then it’s physics (it’s the analytical mind that employers are looking for).  Social science (in this case politics) is tenth.  Further, in the US, the top earners are even more tech biased.  The best Masters for leveraging starting salaries is Information Systems.  Reports on sites like show entry-level software engineers on Google’s Mountain View campus earning more than any other discipline: $113,000 at the last glance.

And it’s not just the US.  If you go on to Singapore’s websites and analyse starting salary rates, the summary puts IT at the top, ahead of banking, law, and tax accountants.  And Singapore is rated by the World Bank as the no.1 location for a startup, with tech leading the way. 

In the UK we have long bemoaned the lack of the right skills, but if we are to become leaders in the tech space, we need to make it much clearer which degrees produce winners.  It’s no coincidence that 90% of the unicorn club (tech startups with valuations great than $1bn) had a founder/CEO with a tech degree.

Finally, bringing it right home to Jersey, anyone that attended the Be Very Afraid event recently could not have failed to be blown away by the tech competence and enthusiasm demonstrated by local students.  Great demos, engaged students and lots of interesting ideas.  And the average student age?  About 9 years old.  We need to make sure the next decade keeps them keen.

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