Half of Thai Graduates Work in Jobs Unrelated to Their Degrees: Survey

BNK48 singer Cherprang Areekul, who holds a degree in chemistry, surrounded by her fans during her graduation day from Mahidol University International College on Oct. 2, 2019. Photo: Cherprang BNK48 / Facebook

BANGKOK — About half of all Thai graduates are working in fields unrelated to their university degrees, according to a survey of over 1,000 people.

UK-based market research agency YouGov found that 52 percent of Thai bachelor’s and above degree graduates work in jobs unrelated to their degrees. Those who completed a degree in humanities (67 percent) are most likely to switch their career paths, as opposed to those with a degree in health or welfare (24 percent).

“My passion has always been technology,” Supavitch Ponak, 24, a political science graduate who is now working as a digital marketing consultant said. “I felt my passion for technology is stronger than what I had been studying.”

But for a health technology graduate like Punyathat Hathaithum, 22, he chose to continue working as a medical technologist because he wanted to fully utilize his degree.

“My degree is specific to a profession. Unlike social science degrees, it’s quite difficult for me to apply for jobs in other fields,” Punyathat said. “Moreover, my job is a regulated profession. Only those who earned the degree and qualified for the license can become a medical technologist, so it’s better for me to take advantage of it.”

Apart from personal interests or nature of the job, opinions on choosing a job seem determined in part by age and whether or not their education included studying overseas.

Older Thais (aged 45 to 54) are more likely than younger generations (aged 25 to 34) to work in jobs relevant to their degree (56 percent vs. 48 percent).

Those who studied in Thailand were more likely to work in jobs unrelated to their degree (52 percent), compared to respondents who studied abroad (34 percent).

“The world is changing. The boundary which divides jobs and degrees is blurring as employers are looking at your experience rather than your grades,” Supavitch said. “People can also take online courses to learn additional skills they did get from the classroom.”

Rockstar philanthropist Artiwara “Toon Bodyslam” Kongmalai holds a degree in law.
Rockstar philanthropist Artiwara “Toon Bodyslam” Kongmalai holds a degree in law.

However, two thirds (66 percent) still responded that they found their degrees “very useful,” while a third (30 percent) find them “somewhat useful.” Only 3 percent find them “useless.”

Of these respondents, those who studied health or welfare (82 percent) are more likely to think of their degrees as very useful, compared to those who studied marketing and advertising (59 percent).

“I don’t think my degree matters that much,” Vatcharakorn Tiyapornsuwan, 22, an advertising graduate said. “Everyone can take on a career in advertising if they have creativity and some technical expertise.”

When it comes to watershed moment like choosing a degree, 34 percent of the respondents made the decision on their own. Some 31 percent said the decision was influenced by their parents, 24 percent by their friends, and 15 percent by their teachers.

“I chose to study law because it’s easier to find a job, although my childhood dream is to become a pilot,” Chanchanok Vajrabukka, 23, a law graduate who is now studying for a private pilot license said. “I decided on my own and my parents did not oppose me.”

Still, almost all of the respondents (97 percent) agree that having a university degree is important.

“No matter what your degree is or where you get it from, it’s going to be useful,” Chanchanok said.

“At least it guarantees that you have the responsibility to complete your studies,” Supavitch added. “It shows that you’ve been through all those assignments and projects, which require a lot of job-related skills.”

When asked whether they would hire someone without a university degree should they assumed the position of an employer, less than half of them (46 percent) said they would be willing. Only one in six (16 percent) said they would be unwilling, while the remaining two in five (38 percent) thinks it makes no difference.

The survey was conducted online from Sept. 3 to 8 using a pool of 1,233 Thai graduates who signed up to participate in return for compensation.

The survey did not factor in socio-economic status or family background. YouGov states the study has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Image: YouGov / Courtesy
Image: YouGov / Courtesy