Six tips for discovering the universities employers prefer for the career you want

detective gear to investigate employers' top unis
The universities that are most popular with employers offering the career you want aren’t necessarily those that top the league tables overall. Turn detective and use our six tips to find out which universities are targeted by your chosen industry.

If you know what career you want, you’re in a good position to find out which universities are well regarded by employers in the field. However, you may need to do some digging, which is where the following tips will help.

You can use our advice regardless of whether you want to study a subject that directly relates to your chosen career. For example, you might have decided to become a lawyer but plan to take a history degree followed by a law conversion course. Just make sure you’re clear as to whether or not you need a particular degree to get into the career you want – our career sectors and guide to which jobs need a specific degree can help.

Studying somewhere that’s respected by your chosen industry can have advantages way before you apply for graduate jobs – relevant employers are likely to visit your university to attend careers fairs or give talks, and might even have direct connections with your department. All this will help you to become better informed about the industry, hear about opportunities, discover more about where precisely your career interests lie and ultimately become a much more appealing job candidate.

1. Search university careers service websites for employers they’re involved with

If you have particular universities in mind, browse their careers service websites for clues about which employers get involved in events. For example, you might find a list of employers who attended a recent careers fair. You may not be able to access all parts of the website but it’s still worth a dig about.

2. Ask questions at university open days

Attending university open days? You could ask at the careers service about which recruiters target the university. If you’re applying to study a subject that relates to the career you want then you can also ask in the relevant academic department.

Keep in mind that universities want to sell themselves to you. If they don’t have very good employer links they might say something a bit vague, such as ‘We work with a wide range of top employers’. If you hear this, try asking for some examples of employers, or if there’s someone else at the university who will know. However, be polite, especially if you might still want to study there and don’t have an offer yet.

3. Check out degree subject league tables

If you’re planning on studying a subject that relates to your future career, take a look at rankings compiled by publications such as The Times and The Guardian that compare the quality of teaching of the same subject at different universities. Employers who look for specific degree subjects often use these league tables to help them decide which universities to target, though they’ll use this in combination with other information, such as where good candidates have come from in the past and whether they have accepted job offers.

4. Look at academic departments’ information online

Again, if you want to study a subject that relates directly to your career, take a look at the department or course information pages on university websites – they may mention which employers they have connections with.

5. Consider location – small employers like local universities

Smaller organisations often target universities in their own geographical area. If the industry you want to work in is based particular part of the country, it’s worth considering studying there.

6. Get in touch with recruiters and ask!

Contact organisations that offer the types of jobs you are interested in. Politely introduce yourself as someone who’s applying to university and interested in a career with an organisation such as theirs, and ask if there are any universities they particularly recommend. You can either phone or email.

Big organisations often have a dedicated graduate recruitment team and clearly state its contact details on the company website. With smaller organisations you might need to do a bit more detective work to find the best person – this could be the HR manager or a manager in the relevant department. If in doubt, start with the organisation’s main phone number or email address and ask to be pointed in the right direction.

You never know – the employer might be so impressed by your keenness that it wants to keep in touch.

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