From University Student to Employee

Trine B. Nielsen, Henriette T. Holmegaard

Abstract


In Denmark employment rates for physics graduates are high, which suggests that the graduates meet the demands of the job market. Consequently, the transition from higher education physics to employment has been of little concern to either universities or other stakeholders and therefore has not been the subject of research. This study aims to explore this gap in the literature, by studying physics students’ experiences and the challenges they encounter in their transition into the job market. The study is based on a questionnaire and interviews with physics graduates from a research-intensive university in Denmark. The results show that despite the high employment rates, the transition experience is both frustrating and challenging for the graduates who perceive it to be their individual responsibility alone to find a job. Firstly, they struggle to identify their own competencies and, as a result, they are challenged in matching them with potential jobs. Secondly, they struggle to identify jobs other than teaching and research careers, which are the jobs being portrayed during their university studies. Thirdly, they experience a lack of both discipline-specific as well as generic competencies such as programming and project management. The results suggest that there is a need, even for study programmes with high employment rates, to support students’ transition into work-life. The implications of the study show that in order to enhance student employability, initiatives should be embedded into the curriculum to secure employability as an integrated part of the graduates’ competencies.

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