Stock - Graduate jobs
A career in finance seems to be an obvious preference for UAE's graduates these days. There will definitely be demand for auditors - and tax specialists. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: UAE businesses are hiring – and they are ready to take on fresh graduates too. With salaries and perks that factor in the higher cost of living and, of course, the credentials and skills that the candidates bring to the job.

According to multiple recruitment industry sources, 2023 is shaping up to be quite a good year for new graduates in the UAE, with sectors such as tech, retail and finance leading the way on the hiring side. The process of employment has also been eased with the new entrants having gone through rigorous internships and adding another plus to their skillsets. (Look inside the offices of any digital focussed business, it’s a certainty that the workforces would be skewing younger. And with many of them having done part or most of their education in the UAE.)

In tandem, jobs are also being created in government services as well as the private sector for UAE Nationals.

‘Generational change’ is a term being used regularly by recruiters, and something that should pick up serious speed over the next five years. Whether generational or otherwise, the fact remains this is as good a time as any to be a fresh graduate and scouting for a job in the UAE. Businesses are also in the mood to recruit locally where possible, and there are the manpower resources available for them to do so.

“Based on a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education in the UAE, it’s estimated around 30,000 graduated in higher education in 2021,” said Antoine Shehadeh, Senior Director for MENA at CFA.

“These figures provide a glimpse into the scale of the graduate population entering the job market, highlighting the importance of education in the UAE, and the availability of educational opportunities across various institutions.”

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Finance careers? A big ‘Yes’

There are subtle changes in the preferences of these graduates as to what sort of job or industry they want to be in.

“There has been a noticeable trend among UAE graduates to pursue careers in finance,” said Shehadeh. “The positive perception of the finance sector among students is on the rise, with more than half expressing confidence in their career prospects.

“This figure is more than double the global average and shows a significant increase compared to our 2021 study, where only 15 per cent of graduates were confident about developing a career in finance. One possible contributing factor to this optimism is the UAE's continued efforts to enhance and expand its international reputation as a regional and global financial services hub.”

New pools of graduates to pick from
It is estimated around 235,480 graduates pursue higher education each year, according to the Ministry of Education. This figure is derived from a sample of 409 universities in the country.

Auditor possibilities

There will also be the central role that the introduction of a corporate tax regime will bring about. In the last 6 months – from the time UAE announced its plans on corporate tax – the accounting and audit sectors were abuzz about the job creation possibilities this would entail.

Even at the junior accountant/auditor levels. “Almost overnight, a demand for tax professionals was created,” said the head of a consultancy. “Much of the immediate need for them will be imported talent, but a pool of talent can be created over the next few years from within the UAE.

“This could explain why there has been such interest in a finance career.

According to recent research, 17 per cent of graduates in the UAE consider choosing accountancy as a career – significantly higher than the global average (7 per cent), according to Shehadeh.

“This percentage is also higher than the results of the 2021 study, which showed that only 8 per cent of graduates were inclined towards accountancy. The figures compare favourably with other finance careers with investment manager the choice for around 1 in 5 graduates (19 per cent) – up from 7 per cent in 2021.”

Interested in STEM? Not so much

A bit of a surprise this, but the CFA findings suggest that the choice of STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) is having less of a resonance with UAE’s young.

Only 12 per cent of UAE graduates ‘feel confident’ about career prospects in STEM, which represents a decline by one-third from the 2021 findings in the CFA Graduate Outlook. This aligns with global trends, as ‘attitudes towards STEM subjects have generally declined in the post-Covid era’.

Even then, “the UAE is still regarded as one of the Gulf’s strongest advocates for STEM subjects,” said Shehadeh. “With the growing overlap between the skills associated with finance and technology, careers that incorporate both are gaining popularity among graduates entering the job market.

“Around 44 per cent of graduates studying in the UAE perceive a technology degree as valuable to their career prospects, reflecting an increase from 35 per cent in 2021. Notably, when asked about their preferred job, a third of graduates expressed interest in becoming an IT/software engineer, which is a significant rise from the 11 per cent reported in 2021.”

Whatever be the case, the new cohort of graduates in the UAE are ready to take on the job. Prospective employers are ready for them…