What Degree Should I Do? Insights From 7.5 million Professionals

What Degree Should I Do? Let The 2018 MastersAvenue Degree and Career Survey Tell You – Insights From 7.5 million Professionals

The question 'What degree should I do?' is one that people around the world try to grapple with every year. To address this, we've produced the MastersAvenue Global Degree and Career Survey (GDCS) ©, one of the largest Degree and Career Surveys in the world and based on an analysis of 7.5 million career paths from graduates and professionals from the world’s Top 100 universities, with the aim of providing prospective students around the world the data necessary to make a better informed choice.


“Deciding on what to study and which career to choose are two of the most important decisions most people will ever make”, says Dr. Daniel Baade, CEO and Founder of MastersAvenue. “Using data to make a better informed career choice just makes sense.”


In this article we explore how the survey was conducted and the importance of data in higher education, whilst delving deeper into it's results and analysing popular study areas and the career outcomes for University graduates.


Why Is It So Important To Take Data Into Account?

Education is the essential foundation for prosperity and opportunity. According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) the demand for education is growing, and adults with higher educational attainment have significantly better economic outcomes earning 56% more than their peers. Education is one of the most important things you can invest in, not just financially but in terms of time and effort too. By making this commitment, an individual, not only, increases their value in the jobs market, but also gives them an opportunity to study their passion in greater depth.


Gathering reliable and high quality data is essential in providing students with all the information to make the best possible choice.


How Did We Conduct The Degree and Career Survey?

We worked hard to analyse the career paths of more than 7.5 million graduates from the world’s top 100 universities, providing a unique insight into the most popular career options for graduates world-wide. The data also includes 59 different degrees and 25 different career paths, allowing for over 1,475 possible combinations across all sectors.


In order to find this out we analysed responses to two simple questions:

  • What degree did you study?
  • In what area are you currently working in?


The Most Popular Study Fields (University Degrees)

The table below lists the 14 most popular area of studies chosen by our respondents.

Most Popular Study Fields


According to the study, the most popular chosen degrees were Economics (11.3%), followed by Computer Science (7.8%) and Business Administration (7.5%). Other popular study fields included; Political Science, Psychology, Electronics, Law, History and Finance. These seven fields alone were studied by 50% of all students, illustrating that despite the huge number of study fields on offer, only a small number decide to choose a less traditional area of study.

So, why is an Economics degree so popular? Economics focuses on the implications of resource scarcity, but what makes it so appealing is its breadth and application to countless situations. Studying economics provides students with a wide variety of employment opportunities, a strong earnings potential and a variety of skills such as research, critical thinking, reasoning and communication..

With the increase of technology in today’s society, Computer Science has become one of the world’s most popular degrees. It focuses on the design, development and analysis of software and hardware and provides students with the ability to solve difficult problems in a practical and stimulating way. All of which makes Computer Science graduates highly regarded in the jobs market.

Business Administration provides a strong grounding in a variety of subjects including accounting, finance, marketing and management all of which offers a range of options upon graduation. It also allows for further specialisation and the potential to invest in further study.


The Most Popular Careers For University Graduates

Most Popular Careers

The table above lists the 14 most popular careers paths of our respondents.

Business Development is the most popular career with 14.5%, followed by Education and Academics with 10.2% and Engineering with 8.0%. Other career paths include Entrepreneurship, Finance, Research, Operations, Sales, IT, Media and Communications and more. Less popular career paths included Art and Design, Healthcare Services, Human Resources, Military services and many others.

14.5% of all respondents working in Business Development roughly equates to 1.1 million people. The reason for this is perhaps due to Business Development becoming more and more critical to organisations as they continue to engage with a global business model and increased international competition.

Some of you may have also noticed that the top 7 careers account for 59% of all possible career paths. However, it is important to recognise the variety of roles and specialisations in each of these career paths. Careers such as Finance and engineering have various disciplines, which will have many roles and opportunities. 


Popularity Map

A degree’s popularity and relevant career path are two important factors when choosing an area of study. However, as pictured below, charting the combinations draws some interesting insights.

We’ve grouped the roles and study fields into key areas and highlighted popularity by shading in each corresponding box. The darker the shade, the more of our respondents chose that particular career path upon graduation.

Study Fields and Career Opportunities

As suggested in the previous tables, Business Development, Education and Academics and Engineering continue to be the most popular careers choices for students. Economics, Computer Science and Business Administration are by far the most popular Study Fields.


The four most common combinations are :

  1. Computer Science graduates going on to work in Engineering.
  2. Economics graduates going on to work in Business development and finance.
  3. Law graduates going on to work in Legal careers.
  4. Electronics graduates going on to work in Engineering.


Career Paths and Career Mobility

When choosing a degree, it’s popularity shouldn’t be the only factor to take into account. Students should investigate common career paths available to them with their degree and assess whether that aligns with their long-term aspirations.

Most Popular Career Paths

The diagram above lists the most ‘traditional’ career paths for the most popular degrees of choice. Each of these careers were chosen by more than 30% of our respondents and illustrate the importance of choosing the right area of study for long-term career aspirations.

To sum up, investing in education can be hugely beneficial but, given additional commitments, it is a decision not to be taken lightly. To choose a study field, students should assess their interests, and select a career in line with their personal affinities or aspirations. In the long term, they should consider their capacity to perform and succeed in their career and weigh up job prospects, earning potential, and progression. 

The MastersAvenue Global Degree and Career Survey shows a clear trend towards more business orientated degrees and careers, with Economics and Business Administration being two of the most popular study choices. Students also seem to be very adaptive with their career choices and are open towards different industries and functional areas.

If you’re interested in learning which degree you should choose, visit mastersavenue.com, a free, unbiased tool that compares more than 40,000 courses world-wide.


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