Graduate Outcomes & Socio-Economic Status: Introduction

This report details graduate outcomes for the class of 2020, focussing on the socio-economic profile of graduates.

First, statistics are provided on the socio-economic profile for graduates based on gender, mode of study (full-time vs part-time) and field of study (subject choice).  Detail is also provided for undergraduates and postgraduates.

Next, the report considers the main graduate destination based on socio-economic profile, including those in employment, further study, unemployment and other activity.  These outcomes are produced for both undergraduates and postgraduates.  Employment outcomes are then analysed in more detail, looking at sector of employment, occupational group and contract type.  Finally, graduate earnings are analysed for undergraduates and postgraduates.


  • Deprivation Index Scores

    Deprivation Index Scores measure the relative affluence or deprivation of a particular geographical area. This uses data from the 2016 Census, and is measured right down to street level, based on small-area statistics (on average, 80-100 households). Thus, showing the extent to which every neighbourhood, suburb, and village is affluent or deprived. Ten key indicators are included in the calculation of this measure (e.g., proportion of skilled professionals, employment levels, education levels). The HEA publish a wide range of reports using Deprivation Index scores, the latest of which is available here.

  • Methodology

    The Graduate Outcomes Survey is a national survey, conducted annually, and distributed to graduates of higher education institutions (HEIs), nine months after graduation. The outputs of this nationwide survey highlight the employment and further study destinations of recent graduates and provides a picture of what graduates are doing in their early-stage careers. For the first time, this survey has been linked to the Small Area Deprivation Index Scores (DIS) which in turn are used to assess the socio-economic profile of graduates in Ireland. This report is focused on the graduating class of 2020.

    The response rate to the 2020 survey was approximately 50%, with just under 30,000 graduates providing detailed information on their main graduate destination nine months after graduation. This analysis is limited to Irish domiciled graduates only, as DIS information is not available for graduates with a home address outside of Ireland. Removing non-Irish domiciled graduates reduced the sample to 25,531. Of the remaining sample, DIS coverage stood at just over 88%, providing a final analytical sample of 22,401 graduates.

    The analytical sample may vary throughout the chapters in the report depending on the response rate to specific questions. For example, while 22,401 graduates provided information on their main graduate destination (Chapter 3 & 4), only 11,463 provided information on their salary (chapter 5). While salary will not be relevant for some graduates that are pursuing further education, or those who are unemployed, some that are in employment may respond “prefer not to say”.

    Note that all graphs have a minimum cell count of 25 unless otherwise stated.

  • Key Findings

    The main findings in this report are as follows:

    1. Overall, almost one in five graduates from the class of 2020 were from affluent backgrounds while fewer than one in 10 were from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    2. The overall average deprivation index score was 2.3. Across degree levels, those graduating with an undergraduate degree were from less affluent areas (1.8) than those graduating with a postgraduate degree (3.7).

    3. On average female graduates were less affluent than males, albeit the gap was relatively small between the two groups (2.1 versus 2.5). This holds true for those graduating with an undergraduate and a postgraduate degree.

    4. One in four Social Sciences, Journalism & Information graduates were from affluent backgrounds, while the average DIS was 3.6. In contrast, there was an equal proportion of Services graduates from disadvantaged/marginally below average backgrounds as there was from affluent/marginally above average backgrounds. At 14%, Services had the highest share of graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    5. Overall, 67% of graduates were in full-time employment nine months after graduation with a further 6% in part-time employment. Little variation between DIS groups in terms of employment levels is observed. At 17%, affluent graduates have the highest proportion pursuing further studies, compared 15% across all DIS groups and just 13% for disadvantaged graduates. Disadvantaged graduates report the largest share of unemployed graduates (9%), while affluent graduates report the lowest share (6%).

    6. Human Health and Social Work Activities was the largest sector of employment (17%) followed by Education (16%) and Financial, Insurance and Real Estate Activities (13%). A relatively large proportion of affluent graduates work in Financial, Insurance and Real Estate Activities (17%) and ICT (9%) compared to the overall average.

    7. 56% of working graduates reported working in Professional occupations. The share of affluent graduates working in Professional occupations was largest at 60% and lowest for disadvantaged graduates at 51%. This difference is largely explained by the fact that a larger share of disadvantaged graduates work in Sales and Customer Service (10%) and Caring, Leisure and Other Service occupations (7%) than the overall average.

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