What are your options after graduation?

Permanent employment is no guarantee after graduation.

This article contains tips on what your options are. In general, every 10th academic is offered project employment – which means that it is a temporary job. This includes maternity covers, graduate positions and wage subsidy jobs.

You may consider – if you are willing and able – to spend two to three years completing a PhD or participate in a ­corporate talent programme. Or would you rather get to it? Perhaps you are the kind of person who wants to run your own business rather than be employed – or maybe you can combine the two?

The options are many.

Research: Industrial PhD or university PhD
The universities are bursting with PhDs. They are considered a means for tenured researchers to headhunt talented students. The three year project is advertised in job banks and on the websites of the universities so they are easy to apply for if you have the proper education, grades and programme. It might be an advantage for you if you continue working in an environment that you are familiar with. Your thesis supervisor or another professor may help you with the application procedure etc. The downside can be that you do not get to decide the subject that will be all you are working on for the next three years – and perhaps you will feel isolated as a researcher. Check who you will be collaborating with if you embark on a PhD.

You may decide to do a PhD in collaboration with a company – just like Thomas whom you can read about in the article Your professional skills may ­overshadow the personality test. By doing an industrial PhD, you will get two supervisors. One at the university and one at the company. The latter you will get to know very well as you will be working at the company offices as part of the project.

There is a limited amount of industrial PhDs every year, so you need to apply for the Innovation Fund at the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. In 2017, the deadlines were March 20 and September 25, so it needs a little planning.

Attend an information meeting or subscribe to a newsletter which reminds you about rules and deadlines at

Trainee or graduate
It is up to the company in question whether they refer to new candidates as trainees or graduates. Historically, trainee has been used in the Nordic countries. Businesses such as Bravida and MTH have used it. In 2016, MT Højgaard changed the word to graduate. Both arrangements are run with intervals that see you working in different departments during the course of two years. The different contents are not connected to the words trainee or graduate as they are both a means for talent development. You must contact individual businesses to hear more about the programmes. Most offer an engineer start wage, but they may differ in terms of duration and whether there is a job guarantee for when you finish.

Internships or wage subsidy jobs
If you are unemployed as a graduate, it might be a good idea to offer your services to a company you are interested in working for, but who is unable to take you on at the moment. The employment legislation leaves several options, such as doing internships (usually 4 or 8 weeks) or getting a wage subsidy job for a longer period of time. Your job centre or unemployment fund can tell you about the options so you can pick what works best for you.

Project employment, paid by the hour, freelancer
If you do not have a job on your hands once you graduate, it may be possible to hold on to your student job and be paid by the hour. It may pose some problems in terms of your unemployment fund, but it might work to your advantage to latch on to the job that you know – at least for a while. Perhaps there will be a job opening in another department?

The downside may be that you will risk being labelled “the intern” and that your colleagues forget that you have actually graduated and will neglect sending relevant tasks your way. You may decide to work for several companies at the same time – paid by the hour or on a freelance ­contract – it is convenient for the ­employer, but perhaps not for you.

Project employment and maternity covers can be your way out of unemployment benefits. But you need to work full time for the equivalent of six months and make at least 22,000 DKK a month before your unemployment benefits can be changed from the graduate rate to full-rate (18,300 DKK before tax).

Business owner, entrepreneur, inventor
If you want to start your own business, Akademikernes A-kasse has made it easy to start while you are receiving unemployment benefits. By establishing entrepreneur houses in more towns, you will get the chance to develop your business in a safe environment alongside like-minded people. The arrangement is running in 2016 in Copenhagen but it will hit other spots throughout Denmark in 2017. All university cities and places such as Herning and Horsens have start-up possibilities.

Working abroad
Working in a foreign country is quite within reach, for instance through graduate programmes. If your qualifications are in demand, you can get to work in businesses concerned with oil or gas (the offshore industry), in the Middle East as a consultative engineer on construction, water-, bridge- or climate projects and much more.

Look through the company pages in the back of this issue of Pejling and see what the different corporations such as Visma, Det Blå Danmark, Siemens, Schneider Elctric etc. have to offer. If you know a language other than English and at a professional level, it augments your options. German, Italian and the Norse languages are in high demand.

On an idealistic level, you can travel with “Engineers without Borders” or work for a charity such as the Red Cross, ­Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke and Dansk Flygtningehjælp or for ­governmental institutions such as Danida.