Choosing the right degree to study at college is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. But according to a new poll, a significant minority British graduates looking back think they made the wrong call.
The survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development of people who graduated six years ago found that a third felt they had done the wrong course, a decision has held them back in later life.
And nearly a quarter of those who graduated last year wish they had done something more scientific or technical, while 22 per cent would have gone for a business-based course or a professional qualification rather than the degree they did.
Victoria Winkler, CIPD learning, training and development adviser, said: "A combination of fierce competition for graduate jobs and graduates taking longer to find work appears to be having an impact on their views about their choice of degree.
"The findings show that, with reflection, many graduates would study a subject that relates directly to business or that will better equip them with skills that are transferable into the workplace," she added.
Despite rising costs and debt levels, the increase in average starting salaries between those who graduated in 2000 and 2005 was just 8 per cent, the survey found.
Those graduating in 2005 earned an average starting salary of £19,451 against graduates from 2000, who started on £18,016.
A third of the 2005 cohort were failing to contribute to a pensions saving scheme, while the figure was a fifth for those who graduated in 2000.
John Philpott, CIPD chief economist, said: "A combination of the drop in starting salaries, slightly weaker labour market conditions and increased inflation makes it much more difficult for many new graduates to get a foot on the property ladder and to start saving for retirement.
"The rapid increase in salary once graduates are working enables them to start to repay debt and gain a foothold on the housing ladder.
"But the obvious temptation will be to devote whatever disposable income is left after meeting debt repayments and essential living costs to lifestyle spending – socialising, holidays – rather than saving for the future. But in doing this graduates are failing to save for the future and their wish to retire in their early sixties looks doubtful," he added.
Worryingly, the gender pay gap for graduates had almost doubled since 2001, with male 2005 graduates earning a startling 14 per cent more than their average female contemporary.
Women who graduated last year were also twelve times more likely to believe that gender was holding them back in their career than men.
"Women are more likely to take time out of work to have children and work part-time which means many will be contributing less to pension investments than men," said Winkler.
"This makes it even more important for women to start contributing to pension investments early on, however almost half of women who graduated in 2005 are failing to make any contribution to pension funds.
"This could leave many women unable to make the necessary contribution to pension investments in order to retire at the same age as men," she added.