Home to the sixth largest economy in the world and various international business hubs, the UK is the perfect place for ambitious graduates to start their careers. Discover how to join the 32 million people currently working here
The country's unemployment rate currently stands at a relatively low 4%, and the graduate labour market remains robust and by some measures is as strong as it has been for some time. 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. The UK has many international communities, so as a foreign worker you'll be in good company.
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, design, the arts 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.
Popular graduate jobs
- Accountant/Finance manager
- Business analyst
- Data scientist
- HR manager
- Marketing and sales professionals
- Project Manager
- Software developer
Graduate schemes are available at many of the UK's large and multinational companies, in sectors such as:
To find out more, see graduate schemes.
According to The Guardian UK 300 2019/20, the most popular graduate employers include Google, Cancer Research UK, Amazon, MI6 and GlaxoSmithKline.
More information on particular industries can be found in our 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.
There are currently a number of shortage occupations, including:
- Business services - analysts, market researchers, HR officers
- Construction - surveyors, planners and project managers
- Education - primary and secondary school teachers (particularly maths teachers)
- Engineering - electrical, mechanical and chemical engineers, civil engineers and product and process engineers
- Healthcare - nurses, medical radiographers and paediatricians
- Hospitality - baristas, chefs
- IT - cyber security analysts, SEO marketers, software developers and systems engineers
- Social care - counsellors, social workers.
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 by 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. Learn more about writing CVs and cover letters.
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 useful when applying to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as they don't always advertise vacancies.
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're 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 can be found in the tourism, hospitality and retail industries.
Summer jobs 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 are plentiful in large cities and tourist areas. The retail sector also employs 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.
- Volunteering England is 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.
Find volunteering projects that are happening locally by checking local newspapers and notice boards. Make sure you research all volunteering opportunities and check the terms and conditions before committing 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 £1,150 per month while for the rest of the UK the wage is £914 per month.
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 as one day; others may last for several months and lead to a permanent position.
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.
Provides paid business and hospitality internships for students and recent graduates.
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 live 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.
In the UK if you are aged 16 to 24 you are entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW). As of April 2020, for workers aged 21 to 24 the hourly rate is £8.20. For those aged 18 to 20 it's slightly less at £6.45.
If you are working and aged 25 or over and not in the first year of an apprenticeship then you are entitled to the government's National Living Wage (NLW) of at least £8.72.
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 £12,500. The basic rate of Income Tax currently stands at 20%.
Following the UK's exit from the EU on 31 January 2020, this information is likely to change. Please check official sources for the most up-to-date information.