The UK boasts the fifth largest economy in the world and many of its cities are recognised as international business hubs, making it a great place to work for ambitious graduates
The UK economy is one of the most powerful in Europe and possesses a workforce of almost 32 million people. The country's unemployment rate currently stands at a relatively low 4.9%, although youth unemployment remains relatively high.
That said, the graduate labour market is at its healthiest in years and jobs are available in a variety of sectors. Competition for graduate jobs is fierce but candidates with the right qualifications, skills and experience stand a good chance of employment.
Language skills are increasingly important, making many foreign nationals desirable candidates. As a foreign worker you'll be in good company. The UK has many international communities, with 3.45 million non-UK nationals currently working in the country.
With the UK's diverse job sectors, good working conditions and numerous employment opportunities it's no surprise that it's a popular destination for international graduates wanting to kick start their careers.
Jobs in the UK
The UK is highly globalised which means that the job market is competitive. Major industries in the UK include:
The services sector dominates the UK economy with banking, insurance and business services all key drivers of the country's growth. Other important industries include metals, chemicals, aerospace, shipbuilding, motor vehicles, food processing, textiles and clothing and electronic and communications equipment.
In recent years there has been a decline in the manufacturing industry, although it's important to note that this sector still employs a large number of workers.
There are currently a number of shortage occupations in a variety of sectors, including:
- Arts - artists, dancers, graphic designers and musicians;
- Education - secondary school teachers (particularly maths teachers);
- Engineering - electrical, mechanical and chemical engineers, civil engineers and product and process engineers;
- Healthcare - nurses, medical radiographers, paediatricians;
- Hospitality - chefs;
- IT - software developers and systems engineers;
- Science - biological scientist and biochemists, physicists and geologists;
- Social care - social workers.
Graduate schemes are available at many of the UK's large and multinational companies in sectors such as:
In 2016 the accounting and professional services sector, and the public, engineering and industrial sectors had the most graduate vacancies. The highest graduate starting salaries were found in investment banking, law, and banking and finance.
According to The Guardian UK 300 2016/17 the most popular graduate employers include Google, Cancer Research UK, MI6, GlaxoSmithKline and Amazon.
More information on particular industries can be found in job sectors.
Look for job vacancies at:
- graduate job search - for the latest graduate schemes, placements and jobs;
- Guardian Jobs - national news site advertising UK and international jobs;
- Indeed - job site listing vacancies throughout the UK;
- Reed - lists vacancies in a range of sectors throughout the UK.
How to get a job in the UK
In the UK you can apply for most jobs online by sending a short CV and cover letter or filling out an application form. Where possible CVs should be no longer than two sides of A4 and cover letters no more than a page.
Networking is important and many vacancies are filled through word of mouth. Use any pre-existing UK contacts to make enquiries about vacancies and let them know that you're actively looking for work in the country.
Speculative applications are also welcome and these can be particularly useful when applying to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as they don't always advertise vacancies.
It's advisable to apply for work as early as possible as many companies have long recruitment processes. Apply in your home country and make the move once you have secured a position.
Due to a high turnover of staff, the hospitality and retail industries often recruit all year round. The creative arts and design sector often recruits in London, while marketing and PR is thriving in cities such as Birmingham and Manchester.
If you are shortlisted for a job you may have to attend a series of interviews. These could be one-to-one interviews with your potential line manager or panel interviews with managers and HR personnel. Larger companies and graduate schemes often use a mix of psychometric testing, assessment centres and interviews to select successful candidates.
Get more advice on how to find a job.
There are many summer, seasonal and temporary jobs on offer in the UK and the majority of these can be found in the tourism, hospitality and retail industries.
Summer jobs can include working at summer or holiday camps, at outdoor adventure and water sport parks, on campsites and at a number of UK festivals.
Hotels, bars and restaurants require causal workers all year round - opportunities will be particularly plentiful in large cities and tourist areas. The retail sector also employs additional temporary staff to cover the busy Christmas period.
There are lots of voluntary roles in the UK that can help you to develop your English skills and allow you to give something back to a charitable organisation.
If you can afford to work unpaid in order to gain experience, taking on a voluntary placement will be worthwhile and can help boost your CV.
- Do-it is the UK’s national volunteering database, listing opportunities from thousands of charities and social groups.
- Vinspired has a range of opportunities for 14 to 25 year-olds. Search by category, project and organisation to find a suitable project.
- Volunteering England part of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).
- Volunteering Matters works in partnership with UK organisations to deliver programmes that enable people of all ages and backgrounds to put something back into the community.
You can find further volunteering projects that are happening locally in your community by checking local newspapers and notice boards. Make sure you thoroughly research all volunteering opportunities and always check the terms and conditions before committing yourself to a scheme.
The main languages taught in schools in the UK are French, Spanish and German. If you are coming from outside the UK and possess skills in one of these languages, you may be able to find teaching work as a modern foreign language (MFL) teacher.
Due to a shortage of professionals in these subjects there is a high demand for talented individuals. If you have a university degree or English equivalent, and a good grasp of the English language, you may be entitled to bursary support in order to complete the required postgraduate study.
For more information on teaching languages in the UK, available bursaries and training options, go to Teach Modern Foreign Languages.
The British Council also offer opportunities to teach foreign languages in British schools through their language assistants programme. If you are a fluent speaker of French, German, Irish, Italian, Mandarin or Spanish you could spend a year teaching in the UK, gaining valuable teaching experience and transferable skills. Salaries vary depending on your location. If working in inner London you’ll be paid £1,115 per month and £886 per month for the rest of the UK.
To get a foot in the door of an organisation, many students in the UK look for relevant work experience. Work experience opportunities are available in almost every sector and will vary in length, depending on the organisation. In some cases a placement will be as short term as one day; others may last for several months and lead to a permanent position.
It's important to remember that all work experience is valuable and many students are successful in securing a place for several months.
Your university's international office can help you find and apply for work experience and internships.
According to the European Commission, European Union (EU) citizens have the right to:
- move to another EU country to work without a work permit;
- enjoy equal treatment with nationals in access to employment, working conditions and all other social and tax advantages;
- stay in the country even after employment has finished.
If your home country is outside the EU or European Economic Area (EEA) you will need to obtain a work permit to take up employment in the UK. Immigration categories are dependent on a points-based system and non-European migrants will have to research their category requirements carefully before applying for visas. Find out more at GOV.UK - Work Visas.
For more information and to check what conditions and restrictions apply, see:
If you are looking for work in the UK, you will need to speak a certain level of English.
If you are over 18 and wish to settle in the country you may need to prove your proficiency through an English language qualification or a degree taught or researched in English.
Certain nationalities are exempt from having to prove their proficiency as are those with a long-term physical or mental condition. GOV.UK has details on language requirements, recognised English Language tests and other specifications for people wishing to settle in the UK at GOV.UK - Settle in the UK.
How to explain your qualifications to employers
In certain countries around the world higher education qualifications are directly comparable to those in the UK. Thanks to the Bologna Process if you're an EU national who has studied a degree in your home country it should be recognised by UK employers.
However, before applying for a job check with potential employers.
To learn more about the recognition of qualifications see UK NARIC.
What it's like to work in the UK
In the UK the average working week is Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Hours of work should be set out in your contract of employment and unless you choose to, you shouldn't have to work more than 48 hours a week.
All employees also have the legal right to request flexible and part-time working practices.
Adult workers are entitled to at least one day off a week, four weeks paid annual leave, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave. Employers are not required by law to allow days off on bank or public holidays, although many honour these dates.
There are eight bank/public holidays per year in England and Wales, nine in Scotland and ten in Northern Ireland.
The government's new National Living Wage (NLW) came into effect on the 1 April 2016. If you are working and aged 25 or over and not in the first year of an apprenticeship then you are entitled to at least £7.20 per hour.
In the UK if you are aged 16 to 24 you are entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW). For workers aged 21 or over the current hourly rate of NMW is £6.95. For those aged 18 to 20 it's slightly less at £5.55.
Income Tax is the tax you pay once you start earning a wage. Taxable income includes the money you earn from employment and any profits you make if you're self-employed. Most people get a personal allowance of tax-free income, which is currently £11,000. The basic rate of Income Tax currently stands at 20%.
A guide to Postgraduate study in the UK
Find out about studying in the UK, discover what it's like to live in England, London, Scotland and Wales, and read overviews of the four key subject areas.