Massey University Communication Graduates: An Overview 2006 to 2017

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Following the emergence of the first Bachelor of Communication (BC) graduates some 12 years ago, it became clear that good employment outcomes were available, but little has been known about what motivated graduates to enrol in the degree, what industries they were employed in, the nature of the work that they were doing, their job locations, salaries, or their tenure in positions. Similarly, we had little information on what skills graduates thought they had gained, skills they thought they lacked, career-related support they sought from the university, or their experience in further study. Accordingly, in 2018 we invited all BC graduates to respond to a survey on their employment and 398 (33%) did so. In respect of motivation to enrol, we learned that Massey Business School (MBS) majors were more oriented to enhancing job prospects, while College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CoHSS) majors sought broader skills and capability development. In motivational factors by gender, males were attracted to the degree first to gain employment, then for the intrinsic interest in the subject matter, then broad skill-building. Females were more strongly attracted by the degree’s intrinsic interest to them, followed by its good employment outcomes, then enhanced job prospects. We also learned that BC graduates are employed in a very diverse array of industries, though five industries account for up to three-quarters of their employment (Information, Media and Telecommunications; Professional, Scientific, Technical, Administrative and Support Services; Other Government Department; Education and Training; Arts, Recreation and Other Services). Some industry sector shift occurs as graduate experience increases. Graduates’ job titles were very diverse: however, breaking down job titles into specialist area and workplace role, we found certain specialist terms recurring, especially communication(s), marketing, digital, content, media, account and service(s). By far the most prevalent of graduates’ workplace roles was manager, with advisor and coordinator also both strongly represented. Graduates may enter positions with manager in the title by about year three and after year five about a third of graduates are so designated. We learned that graduates’ overall employment rate was 91% (84% full-time, 7% part-time). The full-time rate is much higher than usually found in other open-entry undergraduate degrees (often around 72% FT and 18% PT). Graduates’ consistent and stable pattern of full-time employment signals that over time demand for communication graduates has been exceeding supply. Predictably, new communication qualifications are currently emerging, such as at the University of Auckland (2017) and VUW and Canterbury University (2019). The median salary for graduates in their first three years is $51K-$60K, while for four-plus years the median rises to $61K-$70K. No substantial salary differences emerged by gender. Salaries show a steady upward trajectory over the first seven years and, while this continues into years 8 and 9, some graduates then exit this trend, earning a lesser amount, which may indicate their entering part-time work for family reasons. We learned that graduates are highly mobile across jobs, averaging just 1.5 years per position, though job tenure increases somewhat with years after completion. We report on research which suggests that movement across jobs, workplaces and industries may be associated with the building of personal and professional resilience and adaptability to change. Eighty per cent of graduates were positive about how the BC equipped them for the workplace. When asked what the BC had taught them, most strongly represented were personal and interpersonal skills, followed by what we called aspects of communication, then communication industry awareness. In the report we comment on how graduates’ report on skills learned may assist the university to reflect further on the graduate attributes that it seeks to create, and we use leadership as an instance of this. A little over half of respondents reported an absence of certain skills in their degree, though skills not learned (n=475) were fewer than skills learned (n=962). Skills not learned were especially pertaining to business and management, digital and other technology, social media, applied learning, and a collection of personal attributes and skills. When asked if they would study the same degree again, 80% of MBS graduates were likely or extremely likely to do so, while CoHSS graduates reported a 69% likelihood. While both these outcomes are regarded as good, we observe that the fifth most popular industry for BC graduates is Arts and Recreation. We comment on how everyday realities in the “gig economy” of somewhat precarious arts-related work may encourage some to reflect on the nature of their previous degree study. Nevertheless, MBS and CoHSS graduates showed little difference in their full-time employment outcomes: both are equally employed. When asked what Massey could do to assist transition into the workplace and when we assessed the responses both by campus/mode of prior study and by years after completion, graduates across campuses/study mode and across yearly cohorts were highly consistent in their belief that the university could do much more to provide internships, other forms of experiential learning, career advice and connections with industry and the community. They also noted the need for more emphasis on digital skills, but the overwhelming majority of comments comprised a call for the university to make a substantial turn towards students’ experiential learning and occupational relevance. Last, graduates showed a strong commitment to undertaking further study, a rising engagement being evident in that over a quarter of them were engaged in further study by years 2-3, half by years 6-7, and 70% by years 8-12. However, the very strong employment outcomes immediately post-degree and the increasing interest in further study in the following years provide good information on when exactly the university should pitch masters-level study to these graduates.
Massey University Communication Graduates, Bachelor of Communication, University degree employment, Graduate destinations, Graduate employment, Graduates' salary outcomes, Graduates' Job Tenure, Degree skills gained, Transition into the workplace
2018, pp. 1 - 46 (46)