• What is the Graduate Outcomes Survey?

    The Graduate Outcomes Survey is a nationally representative annual survey of graduates from 23 Higher Education Institutes (for full list of institutes, see Contact Details).

    Graduates are surveyed nine months after graduation. For the Class of 2021, the survey was distributed in Spring/Summer 2022. Exact timings are determined by the institutes themselves. There is one census date of 31 March 2022.

    Annually, the response rate for the Graduate Outcomes Survey is around 50%.

    A national report is produced, alongside an Appendix in the form of an interactive dashboard. This dashboard facilitates further analysis and findings.

    An “All Years” dashboard is also available. This enables year-on-year analysis and comparison of graduate outcomes. No data is available for the Class of 2019, as the timing of the survey coincided with the onset of COVID-19. To avoid placing an extra burden on students and institutes alike, the decision was made to cancel the Class of 2019 Graduate Outcomes Survey. As such, the years available are the Class of 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021.

Executive Summary

  • 72,148 graduates across 23 HEIs (54% female; 46% male)
  • The most common fields of study are Business, Administration & Law (27.2%), Health & Welfare (15.6%), and Arts & Humanities (11.7%)
  • 49.9% graduated from Undergraduate Honours Degree programmes; 24.7% from Taught Masters programmes
  • The overall response rate is 50.3%.
  • Overall, 81.9% of graduates are in employment nine months after graduation (up from 75.9% for the Class of 2020 and 80.1% for the Class of 2018). Employment is highest for Education graduates (94.2%) and lowest for Arts & Humanities graduates (65%).


Undergraduate Honours Degrees

  • More than three-quarters of graduates are employed nine months after graduation (75.8%), up significantly from 69.7% in 2020, and slightly above 74.7% in 2018. The proportion of graduates pursuing further study has decreased slightly to 18.3% in 2021, down from 20.9% in 2020. Unemployment has decreased to 3.9% in 2021, down from 7.2% in 2020.
  • 63.7% of Undergraduate Honours Degree graduates are on permanent or open-ended contracts.
  • The most common occupation for graduates nine months after graduation is Professional Occupations (49%).
  • Nine months after graduation, 91% of employed graduates are working in Ireland. Dublin is the most common county of employment (43.1%), followed by Cork (13.8%) and Galway (7.1%).
  • In 2021, 53% of graduates completed internships. This is down from 61.6% in 2020.
  • More than six in ten graduates consider their course Very Relevant or Relevant to their job (62.8%).
  • The most common sources of employment include Personal Contacts (19.8%), Recruitment Sites (19.7%), and already working there (17.3%)

Postgraduate Taught Graduates

  • Nine months after graduation, 89.7% of Postgraduate Taught graduates were in employment. In 2020, this was 84.9% and 88.4% in 2018. The proportion of graduates pursuing further study remained steady, at 3.6% in 2021, and 4% in 2020. Unemployment has decreased, at 4.6% in 2021, down from 8.9% in 2020.
  • Almost 3 in 5 Postgraduate Taught graduates (58.6%) are employed in Professional Occupations, nine months after graduation.
  • More than half (59%) of graduates earn more than €35,000 per annum.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 believe that their course is relevant to their job (71.8%).

Postgraduate Research Graduates

  • In 2021, 89.6% of Postgraduate Research graduates were employed nine months after graduation, down from 91.2% in 2020 and slightly up from 2018 when it was 88.5%. The proportion of graduates pursuing further study increased, at 3.3% in 2021, up from 2.2% in 2020. Meanwhile, unemployment decreased to 3.4% in 2021, down from 4.8% in 2020.
  • A total of 80.7% are earning more than €35,000 per annum.

Foreword: Vivienne Patterson, Head of Skills, Engagement and Statistics

Tracking graduate outcomes is at the forefront of national policy frameworks and huge strides have been made over the last six years in graduate tracking, through the development of the HEA’s Graduate Outcomes Survey and administrative data housed in the Central Statistics Office. Robust data on graduate outcomes allows the HEA, higher education institutions and policy makers to measure the early career development of graduates and is a crucial part of providing transparency and accountability for public investment and understanding the skills needs of the Irish economy.



This report of the Graduate Outcomes Survey: Class of 2021 presents the findings of the fourth iteration of a national analysis of higher education graduate outcomes in Ireland. This report is the second since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic and the first since a complete reopening of society and the labour market. Due to the onset of Covid-19 and the subsequent restrictions introduced in higher education institutions in March 2020, it was necessary to cancel the 2020 Graduate Outcomes Survey of 2019 graduates.  Last year’s report was the first in two years that allowed us to see the full picture of early-stage graduate outcomes and this year has allowed us to analyse these trends further.

The findings of this report show that there has been a strong rebound in employment from last year’s Covid-19 pandemic affected graduate employment rates. This is in line with broader economic trends which show continued employment growth across all sectors of the economy. In terms of the main destination of all graduates, there has been an increase in employment compared with the Class of 2020. For 2021 graduates, 82% were working or due to start a job (compared to 76% for 2020 graduates), 12% were engaged in further study (compared to 13% for 2020 graduates), 4% were unemployed (compared to 8% for 2020 graduates) and 2% were engaged in ‘other’ activities (2% for 2020 graduates).

This report also contains a chapter that collates the available research and data on the broader outcomes from higher education beyond employment and salaries. These areas include:

  • Trust in institutions, political engagement, and impact on public policy
  • Health
  • Parenting and childcare
  • Criminality

Review of the research shows that graduates of higher education tend to have a higher level of trust in public institutions; are more likely to vote; and have a greater awareness of, and sense of responsibility towards, social justice.  They are also more likely to live longer and experience obesity less than those with lower levels of education.  Maternal education levels have a significant impact on the educational outcomes of children, with higher educational attainment of mothers associated with superior child literacy and educational outcomes.  Research has also found that higher levels of education attainment have a broader societal impact, ensuring that Ireland can meet global challenges.


As the recovery from the pandemic continues, and in the face of turbulent economic indicators here in Ireland and abroad, we must grasp this opportunity to provide our future graduates with new skills, and new ways of thinking and working; reduce inequality in education and employment; and provide for a vibrant social, cultural, and economic future. This report provides an important contribution to the evidence base that will allow us to look forward to bright prospects for our society and economy.

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. We’d also like to acknowledge the inclusion of the first private Irish HEI, Dublin Business School, in this year’s results.  I would also like to extend my gratitude to all the graduates who the time to answer the survey.


Next Chapter: Main Graduate Destination

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