Tracking graduate outcomes is crucial to improving the quality of education, and the outcomes of both future students and graduates. In assessing relevance of studies, gender pay gaps and employment outcomes (amongst many other factors), policymakers can bring the voice of graduates to the forefront of evidence-based decisions.

The Graduate Outcomes Survey is a national survey distributed to all graduates of higher education institutions (HEIs), 9 months after graduation. The outputs of this nationwide study focus not solely on future graduates but highlights the current constraints or demands on new graduates. Moreover, in-depth analyses are provided for international graduates and postgraduates, demonstrating the scope and representativeness of this study and more importantly, the far-reaching implications of this study.


Factors explored in this report include employment outcomes, source of employment, location of employment, graduate salaries, relevancy of studies, enrolment on further studies, and much more. These factors are further broken down by factors such as gender, field of study, institute type and level of study.


Executive Summary: 

  • The graduate population was 62,147 in 2018 (up from 58,136 in 2017)
  • 53% of the population were female; 47% male
  • The most popular fields of study were Business, Administration & Law (25%), Health & Welfare (16%), and Arts & Humanities (14%)
  • 51% graduated from a Bachelor Degree programme; 21% from Masters Taught
  • 80% were in employment (full-time, part-time, due to start) 9 months after graduation
  • Employment prospects were best for Education graduates (92% in employment), followed by Health & Welfare (87%), ICT (86%) and Engineering (85%)
  • Arts & Humanities had the lowest proportion of graduates in employment (63%), yet had the highest proportion of graduates in further study (24%)
  • The overall weighted mean salary of those working full-time was €36,248
  • ICT graduates had the highest salaries, at €39,248, followed closely by Education graduates (€39,173)


Foreword: Alan Wall (Chief Executive Officer, Higher Education Authority)

This report of the Graduate Outcomes Survey: Class of 2018 provides the findings of the second iteration of a sector wide analysis of higher education graduate outcomes in Ireland. Tracking graduate outcomes is at the forefront of national policy frameworks.

The findings of this report show high levels of graduate employability for the 2018 graduate cohort, who were seeking employment at the end of 2018 and early 2019. In terms of the main destination of all graduates, there has been an increase in employment and an associated decrease in other outcomes since the class of 2017 findings. For 2018 graduates, 80% were working or due to start a job (compared to 78% for 2017 graduates), 13% were engaged in further study (compared to 14% for 2017 graduates), 4% were unemployed (compared to 5% for 2017 graduates) and 3% were engaged in ‘other’ activities (compared to 4% for 2017 graduates). Similar to the class of 2017 findings, the analysis shows that higher educational attainment levels are linked to higher employment rates. This report also offers valuable insights into the self-reported obstacles that many graduates face. Interestingly, for unemployed graduates, the most common barrier cited was a ‘perceived lack of experience’ (31%), followed by reasons related to a ‘competitive jobs industry’ (17%). Furthermore, for graduates engaged in ‘other’ activities, the most common barrier cited was ‘family reasons (including childcare)’.

Unfortunately, due to the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions introduced in higher education institutions on 12th March 2020, it was deemed necessary and appropriate to cancel the 2020 Graduate Outcomes Survey of 2019 graduates. While the virus has led to a rapid international response and the breaking down of institutional and cultural barriers in driving individuals and organisations to work remotely from home; the predicted slowdown that will occur in the coming months ahead is going to be a challenge for the higher education sector. Although our knowledge is limited as to the magnitude of the social and economic implications of this virus, one potential consequence is the widening of inequalities in education and employment. However, as our past has shown us, ‘in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity’ (Albert Einstein).

I am hopeful that the higher education sector will respond well to these challenges and continue to provide essential and highly valuable graduates that will be required to get our economy back on track.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the higher education institutions – and in particular the careers officers and IT personnel – for their ongoing engagement with the survey.

Without your continued hard work, participation and support, this publication would not have been possible. I would also like to extend my gratitude to all the graduates that took the time to answer the survey.

Go to first chapter: Main Graduate Destination

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