Graduation Morningfuture
Guiding Trend 4 March Mar 2019 0730 4 March 2019

Is your degree really useful?

Spoiler alert: the answer is yes, but it’s not all about the faculty. Internships, Erasmus trips and IT skills are important for employability.

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“Political sciences? A useless degree”: you will probably remember the scene created a few days ago in the TV talkshow Non è l'arena, where entrepreneur and writer Alberto Forchielli threw himself without mincing his words against a young graduate who complained about the lack of opportunities for young people who study (the topic of discussion was citizenship income). According to the entrepreneur, today humanities degrees are useless, and to find work one should study subjects that speak a universal language, like engineering, computer science and physics.

Forchielli is not new to these controversies: in addition to young people themselves (to whom he dedicated a book with an eloquent title) he has in turn knocked down everyone, from old and untouchable companies, to the university system which he considers unattainable, even taking on families, guilty of not being able to direct their children and of "allowing them to study languages or law", thus devoting themselves to unemployment. Beyond personal opinions on this matter, the question has become a recurring one: is my degree actually useful?

To answer this question, it is worth looking first of all at the data. And what the data say is that, at least in theory, yes, having a degree is useful. According to the latest interuniversity consortium AlmaLaurea report on bachelor and masters graduates, in 2017, one year after graduation, 71.1% of first-level graduates were employed and 73.9% among the two-year master's degree students (percentages rising to 83,8% and 85.6%, respectively, three years after; a slight increase compared to the previous year's figures). Compared to high school graduates, who work in much lower percentages (one year works 35.5%, 45.0% at three years, although it is true that many still dedicate themselves partly to study and not just to work), a degree proves to be a useful asset to enter the world of work.

The employment rate of Stem graduates is 4.1 percentage points higher than non-Stem graduates, and equal to 89.3%

Naturally, however, many differences can be traced within the graduate population. By degree, of course, but also by gender, geographical area and not only.

Let's go in order. According to AlmaLaurea, “all other things being equal, graduates of the health and engineering professions are more favored. Graduates of the psychological, legal and geo-biological disciplinary groups are less favored”. In general, Forchielli’s point of view seems to be confirmed: graduating in humanities involves greater difficulty in finding a job than graduates of scientific subjects.

In particular, the employment rate of Stem graduates (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is 4.1percent higher than non-Stem graduates, and equal to 89.3%. Among graduates in science subjects, economic-statistical groups (94.8%) and engineering (94.6%) fare better, while the geo-biological group is on the bottom of the scale with an equal employment rate at 78.5%.

Even in terms of pay the Stem diplomas “pay” more: five years after the title, scientific graduates receive an average salary of 1,571 euro net, a good 16.4% more than non-Stem graduates, who earn an average of 1,350 EUR. So much so that graduates of science subjects are more satisfied with having undertaken their course of study than others: for 61.8% Stem degrees are considered “effective or very effective” to find work (among humanities graduates the share is instead equal to 58.6%).

Geographical location of the university, the timing with which you achieve your degree and experiences abroad all count. And in Italy, furthermore, if you're a man or a woman.

In short, it is true that science and engineering subjects give much more chance of successfully entering the world of work. But it is also true that influencing the employability of a young person is not just the faculty he or she undertakes: the geographical location of the university and the timing with which the degree is obtained are just two examples of this variability. In Italy, furthermore, it even makes a difference if you're a man or a woman. In fact, according to Almalaurea, men have 8.2% more chance of working than women. Also among the Stem subjects: the male employment rate is 92.5% compared to 85% of women, and salaries are also higher: + 23.6% for men.

Those residing in the North, also, have 34.1% more chance of being employed than those living in the South, while the employability of those who studied in the northern regions is 44.9% higher than in those who studied in the South.

But not only. To make the difference in terms of the probability of finding a job, according to AlmaLaurea, are also the timing of completion of the university course: in particular, those who finish their studies within a year out of their deadline have a 52.5% more chance to work than to those who conclude them with four years of delay. This is also because those who graduate on time tend to be younger (where age is a more strategic asset for companies than the degree grade).

A degree helps you find work, and if you have a scientific degree, it’s even better. But the faculty is only one among the many factors that influence the employability of young people

Complementary experiences also help to increase their chances of finding a job quickly: in particular, student-workers have as much as 82.1% more chance of working than those who graduate without having ever had work experience, and those who have completed a curricular internship have 20.6% more chance of finding employment than those who have never done one. And following on this path, those who have had foreign experiences with Erasmus or other programs see an increase in employability of 14%. IT skills also have a positive role: those who know at least five IT tools have an 18.5% chance of being hired within the first year of graduation compared to those who know only two.

In short, a degree does help find work, and if you have a scientific degree, it’s even better. But the faculty is only one among many factors that influence the employability of young people. It’s not necessarily true that studying Political Sciences means to choose for complete unemployability. Rather, it seems correct to say that much will depend on the seriousness with which a person devotes oneself to a course of study (whatever it may be) and on how much one strives to acquire concrete and valuable experiences and skills.

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