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Types of sector

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In the UK, the main graduate employment sectors are private, public and not-for-profit.

The skills required by each sector are similar. Both public and not-for-profit bodies are increasingly run as business operations. But the organisational cultures, the working environments and the values of the organisations differ even within a sector.

It can be helpful to remember this when researching potential employers as it will help you make an informed decision about who you want to work for and where to look for job vacancies.

The private sector

In this sector businesses are run in the first instance for profit and the benefits of their shareholders. They seek to achieve this through maximising revenues and controlling costs.

The business focus is on selling goods and services, coupled with organisational efficiency. Businesses differ greatly in their working cultures depending on the industry sector they operate in and the way in which they are led and managed.

The private sector covers a wide range of industries with a diverse range of job opportunities. Salary levels will vary depending on the current profitability of the business, the particular skills they are seeking to attract, and what their competitors are offering.

The public sector

The public sector comprises the parts of the economy that are not controlled by individuals, voluntary organisations or private companies.

It includes national and local government and government owned firms including the BBC, diplomatic service and the armed services, as well as the majority of education, social and community services, the police and fire service. Major employers include NHS England, NHS Wales, local councils and the Civil Service.

The public sector has always been a popular choice for graduates as the public sector ethos supports professional development and the services it providers can have a real impact on people’s lives.

Changes to the sector

The perception of the public sector as a nine-to-five environment with long term job security, salary levels below that in the private sector, but generous pensions, is no longer valid due to cost-saving measures from central government. The Civil Service and regional and local government have undergone considerable change in recent years.

As public services look to new ways of delivering their services, new opportunities are arising and employers are looking for staff with a wider range of skills to implement these changes. Organisations are being run more like private businesses, and accountability is higher than ever before.

The not-for-profit sector

The not-for-profit sector (often referred to as the third sector) is a mix of organisations that have certain key features in common.

They are:

  • value led – established to address a social need rather than simply to provide a service or generate revenue
  • non-profit making, or reinvest revenue for the purpose of serving their client group or achieving their objective
  • generally staffed in part by volunteers
  • not under direct political control.

Charities and voluntary organisations are the major providers of graduate employment in this sector and it attracts increasing numbers of graduates, partly because of the values attached to the work. Competition for jobs can therefore be fierce, despite lower salary levels.

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To learn more about the types of sector you could work in, please get in touch:

Careers and Employability