How important is a degree when looking for a new job?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
Rudy SooprayenDirector, B2B
November 09, 2020, 2:54 PM UTC

YouGov asked businesses in the UK just how important a top-level qualification is when they are looking for new hires

With the economy suffering due to COVID-19, many adults find themselves back on the job market – and an uncertain future lies ahead for many young people who might be entering it for the first time.

But how important is it for job hunters to have a degree? A new YouGov B2B Omnibus survey asked 1,000 business decision makers in Great Britain just how important a top-level qualification really is when hiring a new employee.

Overall, approaching two fifths (39%) of businesses say that generally speaking, applicants having a degree is important when they hire for a new position, while 14% say it is very important. 

However, most businesses (56%) say the opposite, and that in general applicants having a degree level qualification is not important – with three in ten (30%) saying it is not important at all. 

Does size matter?

However, job applicants who do hold degrees may have better luck when applying to different size companies, with the majority (56%) of decision makers who work in large businesses (with >249 employees) saying a degree is important when picking a candidate for a role.

The importance of degree-holding appears inversely proportional to the number of employees; 38% of decision-makers in medium sized businesses (50-249 employees), 36% of those in small businesses (10- 49 employees) and just 20% of those in microbusinesses say it’s important for candidates to be university graduates.  

Is there a sector difference?

Differences in whether businesses place importance on a degree are more apparent when splitting the data by sector, with businesses operating in the legal sector leading the way. Two thirds (66%) of legal businesses say its important for new hires to have a degree, with 40% saying its very important.

Most IT and Telecoms (58%) firms also prefer candidates with high level of qualification, however only 19% say its very important for them to hold ad egree. The same is true for 55% of finance and accounting firms who place emphasis on a degree when hiring.

Elsewhere the media and marketing sector is split, with 47% of businesses saying a degree is important compared to 50% of businesses saying the opposite.

Manufacturing and construction businesses are less concerned about whether applicants have a degree or not when hiring (38% and 36% of businesses respectively).

Candidates currently looking for work who don’t have a completed degree may wish to look into the retail (30%) and hospitality sectors (19%), as these are the least like to place importance on degree qualifications when hiring for new roles.

Learn more about YouGov B2B Omnibus research here

See full results here