New independent research* commissioned by leading international volunteering company Projects Abroad, has found that 60 per cent of business managers believe that gap years are just as important or more important as a university degree when selecting candidates for interview.

More than 250 managers across several industry sectors in the UK were asked to rate the importance of the gap year against a degree; less than half (44 per cent), cited the traditional university degree as more important than gap year travel and seven per cent were convinced that gap years are more crucial than a degree when looking for potential job applicants.

Interestingly, managers looking for new recruits in the HR, travel & transport and healthcare sectors are the most likely to consider gap years as equal in merit to a degree. On the flipside, the engineering sector is most likely to rate the traditional university degree over the gap year.

Dr. Peter Slowe, founder and director of Projects Abroad comments, “These findings serve as a real wake-up call to anyone who ever doubted the value of overseas gap year travel. To learn that gap year experiences hold an equal footing with employers alongside a degree, really shows just how far this once ‘off-the-wall’ concept has come, both in terms of its general credibility and an increased awareness across many professions and industries. Gap years can offer great life experiences and can be hugely rewarding and I hope that this research gives some comfort to those currently contemplating the prospect. We hear hundreds of success stories every year around the world about the work that our gap year volunteers have been doing, such as teaching, conservation and care projects in Africa, Asia and South America.

“In a climate where graduates in particular face fierce competition in the job market and need every opportunity to stand out from the crowd, we should be encouraging young people in this country to embrace the idea of gap year travel. In the case of voluntary work it is a chance to live and work for a time in a different culture, experience real-life cultural exchange and to play a small but crucial role in the developing world.”