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Young people's views on subject choices, further study and careers

Despite large increases in the number of young people studying geography at GCSE and growing diversity in the GCSE cohort over the last decade, there has been lower uptake of geography at A Level by students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and some ethnic groups. The narrowing of the subject’s intake continues into university.

In spring 2021, the Society commissioned Censuswide to discover more about the views of young people and what motivates their choices of subjects to study at school and university, and what influences their career choices.

Censuswide surveyed 500 young people in March and April 2021. All respondents were living in England, 16-21 years old, and in education (studying GCSE or equivalent, A Levels or equivalent, or at university).

The results show that most young people see a connection between their choices of subjects at school and university, and their future careers. They also show that earning a good salary and finding the ‘right’ job are the most important considerations for when they leave education.

However, in contrast to some other studies, wider considerations about careers, such as making a difference by addressing environmental or social concerns are of a lower priority – and this is more marked for some demographic groups than others.

In terms of why some students don’t choose geography, the most common reason is that they simply prefer other subjects. However, the results also show that young people have a relatively narrow view of what career options are open to geographers and that there is little awareness that geography graduates have above average salaries and rates of employment.

The results of the survey are now being used by the Society to plan work that more strongly articulates the positive outcomes experienced by geography graduates and widens understanding of the range of careers that studying geography can lead to. In addition, the survey has highlighted the groups of young people who may need more targeted support and engagement with respect to the value of geography.

Download the full survey report

How to cite

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2022). Young people's views on subject choices, further study and careers.  Available at Last accessed on: <date>


Read our other reports about geography in schools