New data from a NIFU report suggests that nine out of ten of Norwegian Masters degree graduates are at work six months after graduation. The data was compiled based on a nation wide survey of Masters degree candidates six months after graduation where main focus was put on the transfer from education to work. The main findings from the report are summarised in the following key points:
In general, there are few changes in the employability and unemployment amongst graduates is 6,8%. While there are generally minor differences in the general unemployment rates of new graduates, the group where unemployment had risen more than others, was those in economic-administrative disciplines. Furthermore, despite for continuous calls for more education in natural sciences that has been prominent in Norwegian public debate in recent years, the report indicated that those with a background in natural sciences have a rather high unemployment level (9,6%), while unemployment is on below average level for those with engineering degrees (6%).
There has been a substantial growth in the number of masters degrees in Norway between 2003 and 2013, and there has been a debate on what has been termed “Masters Disease” (Mastersyke) in Norwegian media, where a core argument has been that Norwegian higher education educates too many with Masters degrees and that this kind of over-education has adverse effects on the labour market. However, the NIFU report does not suggest that there has been an increase in the mismatch between labour market needs and graduate educational levels, and this is in fact relevant for all disciplinary fields. There is indeed a certain number of Masters degree candidates working on positions where a bachelors degree would sufficient. At the same time, what is notable is that the share of these graduates has not increased despite a substantial increase of Masters degree candidates in recent years. As such, the report does not confirm the anecdotal stories of candidates with masters degrees working in low-skilled work where no higher education is not required, suggesting that the labour market and educational structure in Norway is different than what one can find in countries such as the US.
The report shows that most graduates acquire work within these 6 months after graduation, but some graduates work on positions not relevant for their education, and this is particularly relevant for those with humanities and artistic education. Those with a profession oriented programme in general work in the relevant professional fields and there is a tendency that those with a more general education (i.e. social sciences) are more spread around. About 15% of graduates overall are headhunted to their jobs, but this varies greatly between disciplines. Furthermore, 17% of Masters degree graduates either work in research or see it as relevant to work in research in coming years, and in general it is graduates with the best results. However, many report research being their second choice for career.
The report also emphasizes that graduates give generally positive evaluations of their educational experience, where negative reviews are given with respect to feedback and supervision practices. While unemployment amongst those with economic-administrative disciplines has increased, they are actually amongst the most satisfied graduates. When it comes to the relevance of education for employment, the report also emphasizes disciplinary differences. Unsurprisingly, law students report high relevance, whereas humanities and sports students report low relevance of education to employment.