Although third level education isn’t just about preparing students to enter into the workforce, it is nevertheless important that undergraduate (and indeed graduate) students think carefully about what courses they want to take, especially with youth unemployment running at around 30% in Ireland. In this regard, it is interesting to see a report from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit charity in Britain which shows that geography graduates are least likely to be out of work six months after graduating. Whereas the average rate of unemployment was 8.9% six months later, unemployment among geography graduates was 7.4%. Pinches of salt need to be kept close at hand here, but the report does raise questions about why geography graduates seem to be more employable than others.
In an article on this issue in the Guardian, one contribution comes from Nick Keeley, director of the Careers Service at Newcastle University. He says: “Geography students generally do well in terms of their relatively low unemployment rates. You could attribute this to the fact that the degree helps develop a whole range of employability skills including numeracy, teamwork through regular field trips, analytical skills in the lab and a certain technical savviness through using various specialist computing applications. Also, the subject area in itself cultivates a world view and a certain cultural sensitivity. These all potentially help a geographer to stand out in the labour market.”
Most of us in NUIM’s Geography department would agree with this sort of statement. Indeed, Jan Rigby, our Head of Department, says: “Maynooth Geographers are highly sought after, and valued by, a wide range of employers as they intuitively think about place. They are always intrigued by why something is different when observed in different places, and have a wide range of skills to investigate further. This means that geographers think about the ‘Where’ aspects of a question, rather than the more typical ‘What’ or ‘How’.”
For NUIM geography students thinking about career options, a visit to the careers office on campus is a must. Staff in the office offer advice, provide resources, run regular events, and generally help students develop their employability skills (it must be a tough gig; the labour market is not in good shape). Geography students, even first years: you should find out about what services are on offer and think long and hard about how you might use the careers office to improve your chances of finding work. Good luck!