The UK has always been a popular study-abroad destination for international students; thanks to the rich academic heritage, presence of ages-old prestigious institutes, research & innovation-driven economy, and multicultural atmosphere. Now, let us have a look at the top courses to study in UK for international students for getting jobs.
Between 2011 and 2016, the popularity of UK did see a decline due to the scrapping of the PSW visa in 2011. However, with the re-introduction of the PSW visa, UK is back again on the popularity list. We all know about the traditionally popular subjects to pursue in the UK. In this article, we will go through the best courses to study in UK that can help foreign students to maximize the job prospects.
Number of International Students and pre-COVID & pre-PSW Scenario in UK
According to the official statistics, there were currently 485,645 international students in 2018-19 in the UK.
The number has experienced an increase from the previous year’s statistics which encompassed a total of 458,520 international students (in 2017 – 2018). 19,000 Indian students arrived in the UK in the year ending September 2018. It was just 11,000 in 2016.
Back then there was no PSW visa.
Now, with the reinstatement of the PSW visa, the number of international students studying in the UK is likely to have a sharp increase. This will lead to more competition in the job market.
Hence, it will be extremely critical to choose the subject area (and also the university) so that you can improve your employability in the UK post-graduation.
Earlier, international students used to have 4 months (6 months if you had attended an elite institute like Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, or Imperial) to look for a job. Now, as an international graduate, you will have 24 months to look for a job (36 months if you are a PhD graduate).
But, that doesn’t mean there will be more jobs in the UK. In fact, post-COVID-19, the job market will be fiercely competitive.
Right now, you can’t just focus on popular subjects (e.g. Journalism, Law, or any simple management course) or attend lower-ranked universities in the UK for jobs.
You can also look at the best courses to study in UK in 2017 – 2019. So, here are the top courses to study in UK for getting jobs as an international student in 2021 – 2022 (post-pandemic and post-PSW). This is list is based on the current market trends and Shortage Occupation List 2022 (updated by the UK Government on April 11, 2022).
Best Subjects to Study in UK for Jobs
2022 – 2023
1. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Biological and Biomedical Sciences have been one of the most popular subject areas to study in the UK for decades. Even I studied Biomedical Sciences (Pharmacology) in the UK.
Currently, it’s among the hottest courses to pursue as a foreign student for getting jobs in the current UK job market.
One clear advantage of studying biomedical sciences is that apart from the industry, the academic sector (at least the top research-based universities) also absorbs a significant percentage of graduates as research assistants and scientists. Even I worked in academic scientific research for a good 6 years across 3 different countries.
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Bioinformatics has been on the occupation shortage list since 2016 – 2017. In the last couple of years, skilled bioinformatics graduates under huge demand. This has also influenced the salary trends. Have a look at the graph below –
The demand for Bioinformaticians and Biomedical Scientists in the UK was a major factor to reinstate the PSW visa last year. To be specific, it was triggered by the launch of the world’s largest genetics project, a £200 million whole genome sequencing project in the UK Biobank.
Now, post-COVID-19, there will be more demand for biomedical scientists and bioinformaticians. Read the top 6 Bioscience Careers post-COVID-19.
Average Graduate Employability Rates within 6-Month of Course Completion:
- Biomedical Sciences: ~92%
- Biological Sciences: 87%
3. Computer Science
Computer Science has been another extremely popular course in the UK. In the last few years, data science, cybersecurity, and big data analytics have also come under the list.
More details are given below.
4. Data Science and Business Analytics
The demand for data scientists grew by 231% between 2013 and 2018. More or less the same for business analysts. Have a look for the business analysts salary trends:
The specific fields that are currently listed in the Skill Shortage List:
- Programmers and Software Engineers
- IT Business Analysts
- IT Architects and Design Engineers
- Web Designers & Developers
- Data Scientists
- Cybersecurity Specialists
Graduate Employment Rate: Around 78 – 85% (depending on the area of specialization)
5. Geology, Earth Sciences & Renewable Energy
Excellent Opportunities in Geology & Earth Sciences
There is a wide range of career opportunities open to geology and earth sciences graduates, for example within the hydrocarbons, mining and quarrying, and civil engineering industries; government and government-supported scientific establishments, geological surveys, specialist geological consultants and research companies, and teaching.
The following jobs in the construction-related ground engineering industry:
• engineering geologist
The following jobs in the oil and gas industry:
• technical services manager in the decommissioning and waste areas of the nuclear industry
• senior resource geologist and staff geologist in the mining sector
Renewable energy skills shortages in the UK
When the energy industry was first privatised, energy companies were overwhelmingly full of engineers and scientists. But over the last decade, the balance has become tilted towards graduates with commercial skills.
There is now a skills shortage for all types of engineers – from general mechanical, design and environmental engineers to more specific wind energy engineers – and scientists such as ecologists, as well as those with design and technical skills, including landscape and wind analysts.
Top Categories that are under Skill Shortage List are:
- Civil Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Electronics Engineering
- Systems and Design Engineering
- Process Engineering
Average Employability Rate: 62 – 75% (depending on the engineering stream)
As you can see, though engineering is under skill shortage, that does not mean every engineering graduate will get a job. You need to be very skilled and on your toes while job hunting.
As per Prospects.ac.uk, you could try breaking into the following areas that are experiencing good growth:
- Nuclear energy – The government wants nuclear power to eventually provide reliable, low carbon, and cost-competitive electricity. To meet this target, the workforce is required to expand by 7,000 to 8,000 per year until 2021, with many of these replacing retirees.
- Big data – This sector is forecast to generate £241billion to UK GDP by 2020, creating 157,000 new jobs in the process.
- Food and drink manufacturing – FDF research estimates that the food and drink industry will need 140,000 new recruits by 2024 in order to meet market demands.
- Mechanical, electrical, electronic, chemical, and software engineers – particularly sought after, with design, production, and maintenance opportunities existing in numerous industries.
7. Mathematics, Economics, Actuarial Science & Statistics
Actuaries, economists, and statisticians have been in serious shortage in the UK for quite some time.
Mathematicians have required in numerous industries and thus graduate work chances are great.
86.5% of Math, Statistics, Economics & Actuarial Science graduates find a job within 6 months of course completion. Maths graduates also draw higher salaries compared to other graduates.
Many decide to work as finance workers, accountants, bankers, or analysts. The degree can likewise be helpful for those looking to work in technology.
8. Medicine and Dentistry
Historically, studying medicine in the UK has been a very popular idea among international students. Medicine and Dentistry graduates have the highest graduate employment rates.
They might not be lower-ranked on the list. But, it’s still there on the list.
Graduate Employment Rate after 6 Months of Course Completion:
- Medicine: 99.4%
- Dentistry: 91%
However, please be advised that getting admitted to Medicine and/or Dentistry programs (UG or PG) is very competitive. Additionally, they are very rigorous and expensive as well. Read more about MBBS & MD in UK – Eligibility, Application Process, Entrance Exams, Costs, and Top Universities.
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The UK has been very strong when it comes to Humanities and Social Sciences. However, if you intend to find a job after finishing your degree in the UK, it’s better to stick to Archaeology, and maybe even History.
In general, 85.4% of history graduates find a job within 6 months of course completion. Check out Archaeology salaries in the UK.
10. Performing Arts and Creative Arts
The following professionals are also under tremendous demand in the UK:
- Dancers and Choreographers
- Visual Artists
- Production Officers
- Graphic Designers
- Animators and VFX Artists
The creative arts sector in the UK is a pretty growing one with umpteen job opportunities. But, unlike the STEM subjects, the university brand name and other basic things like internships & networking are very critical.
Developing cross-disciplinary skills is very critical. Read best visual arts jobs in the tech sector and how to boost creative careers by leveraging tech & AI skills.
It can still be harder to find a graduate job in creative arts and design than in other industries because so much of the sector is made up of microbusinesses and self-employment. Traditional graduate schemes are not as commonplace as they are in other areas. You’ll need to develop skills and experience through work experience and paid internships to build your portfolio.
For example, even though under the skill shortage category, the salaries of the graphic designers have remained pretty stagnant over the years – see the graph below. The major reason is hiring freelancers and remote workers from other locations.
Read more about the creative arts sector in the UK.
11. Business Subjects / MBA
MBA and other business subjects like MSc Marketing, MSc International Business, MSc Management are very popular in the UK.
There are jobs. But, these fields have become saturated. These subjects are not niche or skill-based fields. So, they are not on the Skill Shortage List (and might never make it to the list).
So, be very careful while choosing a university. The brand name of the institute, industry links, and alumni network are the parameters to look into.
More importantly, as an MBA graduate or Business Studies graduate, if you have (or pick up) some niche skills like Programming/Coding, Statistics, Business Analytics, Graphics/Web/UI-UX Design, or Financial Engineering, then you will be gold.
Usually, 85% of graduates with a business degree do find a job within 6 months. But, you have to attend a top university (e.g. London Business School, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Warwick, etc.) and need to be very proactive with your networking skills in order to land a job in the UK.
12. Other Top Courses to Pursue in the UK for Jobs
Nurses, Architects, and Chefs are also under the Skill Shorate category. So, Nursing Architecture, Hospitality Management, or Culinary Arts will be excellent choices as well if you are planning to study in the UK in 2021 – 2022.
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