The employment trajectories of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates

Nuffield Foundation

Principal Investigators

Prof. Emma Smith

Dr. Patrick White

Source of Funding

This research project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Final Report

Smith, E. and White, P. (2018) The employment trajectories of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics graduates.

Full Report. Executive Summary.


There is considerable political and industry pressure to increase the number of scientists in the UK and other developed countries. Claims are made that the current supply of STEM workers is inadequate to ensure the current and future economic prosperity of the nation and a large number of initiatives have been funded to address this perceived problem. However, others argue that the supply of STEM skills is more than enough to meet demand and that the picture is much healthier than is often suggested. Indeed, rather than there being a shortage of STEM professionals, it has been argued that many highly qualified STEM graduates struggle to find appropriate employment and either work in non-STEM fields, are ‘underemployed’ in STEM occupations, or are unemployed.

This study contributes to the ‘STEM skills deficit’ debate by providing much needed evidence on the nature of STEM career trajectories and their relationship to the wider labour market.

The main aims of the study are as follows:

  1. To provide a comprehensive overview of the career trajectories of STEM graduates and others working in highly skilled STEM occupations.
  2. To examine trends in the early career destinations of STEM and non-STEM graduates.
  3. To evaluate the importance of historical changes in education and the labour market by comparing the career trajectories of STEM graduates and STEM employees born in 1958 with those born in 1970.
  4. To identify relationships between STEM career trajectories and the wider labour market context.
  5. To determine the individual social and educational characteristics most closely associated with success in STEM careers and identify potential barriers to participation.
  6. To inform academic debates relating to: ‘crisis accounts’; the relationship between education and the labour market; and the reproduction of social and economic inequalities.

To find out more about the 'Research Approach' and 'Outputs' please click on the links below:

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