Shelf-stacking more useful in pandemic than master’s degree, study finds

Graduates who spent last year stacking shelves, working as an Amazon driver or volunteering are far more employable than those who “waited out” the pandemic by continuing their education, a study has found.

The Early Careers Survey 2021 found that one in four university students spent an average of £8,666 on a master’s qualification last year, many in the hope that the extra qualification would give them an edge on the job market.

“It was an extremely rational decision to swerve the jobs market for a year in 2020 but if all you’ve done is a master’s degree and no work experience at all, you’re going to struggle to show employers that you have those oven-ready work skills they need,” said Charlie Ball, the graduate labour market expert for Prospects, which carried out the survey of 7,189 young people.

Unemployment among recent graduates has risen to levels last seen during the austerity era, with young people worst affected by job shortages due to the pandemic.

But the study warns graduates against doing a master’s in the hope it will land them a better job or more money. “Students need to be aware that an additional qualification on its own won’t help them land a graduate job,” warned the study, which will be published on 24 June.