When it comes to choosing your degree, should you follow your heart or the dollar signs? Our guide to graduate starting salaries can help you make the call…
The current average graduate starting salary in the UK is just over £23,000, but we’ve also heard folk reporting everything between £16,000 and £90,000!
Of course, there are many factors which affect how fat your salary will be. The four biggies are: the employer, the industry, the location, and job market competition.
If you’re a recent graduate looking for work, employers increasingly want to know how much you think you’re worth. This guide will give you the ballpark figures for degree subjects so you don’t sell yourself short.
Average graduate salary for degrees:
Studying a particular degree doesn’t mean you have to pursue a related career – check out this list of the top skills employers really look for.
Expected graduate salaries in each industry
These are the typical starting salaries for UK graduates* based on the industries they choose to work in:
Art (creative, visual and performance)
As you probably already know if you’re interested in art, the graduate job market for art students isn’t the most flush with cash.
For those wanting to get into Creative Arts(design, music, and performing or visual arts) salaries vary vastly, though which industry you work in could make a considerable difference.
A typical starting salary for a curatorial position (e.g. Assistant Curator) is around £18,000,
but with the potential to earn top dollar later in your career.
Going for a career in the digital arts has the potential to offer you a higher salary.
Graphic and digital designers are pretty high in demand these days due to everything shifting online,
meaning that although a graduate salary could start between £15,000–£19,000, it can rise to £27,000 once you’ve got a bit of experience.
Banking and Accountancy
Salaries for Accountancy vary considerably depending on location, size of company and specialisation, with starting salaries averaging £23,180 (although graduates have reported earning anything between £17,000 and £50,000 in their first job).
Graduates who enter Banking (unsurprisingly) get the big bucks, as a report this year revealed some investment bankers start off with an average salary of £45,000.
Business, Marketing and Management
Business and Management degrees can open up doors to some seriously well-paid careers in Accountancy or Investment Banking. You’ve also got options in Marketing, Media, HR and Retail Management.
A starting salary in Retail Management will likely be in the range of £17,000–£23,000, but some graduate training schemes pay handsomely for impressive candidates. Budget supermarket chain Aldi is a go-to for its grad scheme, which pays £44,000 in the first year. If that doesn’t quite do it for you, they’ll throw in a car, too (an Audi, funnily enough).
A career in HR will see you start on something like £19,000 (rising rapidly with more experience and qualifications), while Digital Marketers can expect a starting salary between £18,000–£22,000, again increasing substantially with experience.
Your career path will depend on what you specialise in, but IT industries are on the up, and they offer heaps of choice: programming, front- and back-end development, systems analysis, web design, UX design, online security, games and apps – the list really is endless.
Starting salaries vary a lot for this type of work as the roles are so varied, but typically they’ll be around £25,000.
It’s worth mentioning that despite this average, graduates have reported receiving anything from £17,000 to £70,000 in IT roles.
There are tonnes of ways of getting into teaching right now, many of which are generously funded.
Starting salaries for qualified teachers in England and Wales are around £22,917 (£28,660 in inner London). In Scotland, you’ll start on probationary pay of £22,416.Going to university isn’t all about the money. Here are the arguments for and against it being worth getting a degree.
While Graduate Recruitment Bureau puts the average salary for an Engineering graduate at £25,000, subject specialism can make a difference to your salary.
Graduates of Chemical Engineering earn an average of £27,696 in their first job, while Civil Engineers nab an average starting salary of £25,847.
Humanities degrees are fairly flexible when it comes to job hunting. On the one hand, you may not be sure quite what you’re going to do when you graduate – but on the other, a bank of transferable skills means Media, Marketing, Teaching and other industries are all yours for the picking.
Starting salaries in Publishing & Journalism are around £19,000–£23,000 and you’re typically expected to start at the bottom and work your way through the ranks. Unpaid internships are rife, but postgrad or in-house training could help you bag a better starting position. There’s scope to make money freelancing, too, especially in writing and editing – see the National Union of Journalists to get an idea of rates.
The bottom rung in Film and Television work is as a Runner, where the recommended pay (if you get any, that is) is £7.50–£13.38 per hour,with no reason for it to increase since competition is fierce. Training towards a specific career – in radio, theatre, production, cinematography, or broadcast journalism – can get you a better deal.
You might think of Law as a quick win for your pay packet, but the reality is that starting salaries vary massively. At the most competitive firms, you could get between £22,000 and £45,000 as a Trainee Solicitor.
Pupil Barristers in England and Wales earn at least £12,000 a year, which can rise to £50,000 and above, depending on who you work for. In Scotland, advocates are unpaid for most of the first year – so you might want to start saving before you graduate!
The starting salary for a Clinical Scientist in the NHS is anywhere between £26,250–£35,250, while Biomedical Scientists start on £22,000–£28,500.
Remember, in the NHS it’s always possible to go up a pay band as your skills and experience increase.
Medicine and Nursing
If you think Medicine is always the fast track to a fat wallet, you may be in for a shock: starting salaries are often no greater than for Humanities careers. However, you’ll likely be able to earn more money faster, plus have access to better leave, sick pay and other job benefits.
The big money comes in when you start specialising, but either way, the further training required can be hard-going and only worth it if you’re prepared to stick with it for the long haul.
Graduates going into Adult Nursing start at Band 5 on the NHS pay scale, giving them a starting salary of £22,000–£28,500.
Junior doctors in their first year of postgrad foundation training earn a minimum of £26,614 (boosted to £30,805 by Foundation Year 2). Doctors training for a speciality earn a basic salary of between £36,461 and £46,208.
Newly qualified dentists who want to work in the NHS undertake Dental Foundation Training for a year, for which they get paid £30,132.
In Veterinary Medicine, starting salaries average at £27,721.It’s worth joining (free) sites like the Graduate Recruitment Bureau and CV Library – they’ll help you get the job you want with the salary you deserve.
Graduate salary by degree
Below is a list detailing the average salaries of graduates, regardless of which industry they ended up in.
Don’t forget that your earnings will increase with experience. It also depends a lot on what career path you take – so make the most of your degree and scope out further training requirements and grad schemes early on.
Subject Graduate starting salary Accounting and Finance £23,818 Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering £26,736 Agriculture and Forestry £21,428 American Studies £20,645 Anatomy and Physiology £22,210 Anthropology £21,471 Archaeology £20,066 Architecture £21,004 Art and Design £19,746 Aural and Oral Sciences £22,380 Biological Sciences £21,669 Building £26,304 Business and Management Studies £24,437 Celtic Studies £20,363 Chemical Engineering £27,734 Chemistry £23,427 Civil Engineering £26,729 Classics and Ancient History £21,863 Communication and Media Studies £20,017 Complementary Medicine £24,872 Computer Science £25,828 Creative Writing £18,456 Dentistry £31,340 Drama, Dance and Cinematics £20,238 East and South Asian Studies £22,889 Economics £28,287 Education £22,002 Electrical and Electronic Engineering £27,659 English £20,186 Food Science £22,153 Forensic Science £20,323 French £22,782 General Engineering £28,649 Geography and Environmental Science £22,144 Geology £22,490 German £22,280 History £22,404 History of Art, Architecture and Design £20,329 Hospitality, Leisure, Recreation and Tourism £21,012 Iberian Languages £23,057 Italian £21,944 Land and Property Management £25,065 Law £21,135 Librarianship and Information Management £24,973 Linguistics £21,050 Marketing £21,968 Materials Technology £24,458 Mathematics £26,415 Mechanical Engineering £26,937 Medical Technology £23,080 Medicine £30,636 Middle Eastern and African Studies £24,195 Music £19,788 Nursing £23,057 Occupational Therapy £22,992 Optometry, Ophthalmology and Orthoptics £16,662 Pharmacology and Pharmacy £20,370 Philosophy £23,521 Physics and Astronomy £26,731 Physiotherapy £22,728 Politics £23,959 Psychology £20,360 Russian and East European Languages £24,191 Social Policy £21,137 Social Work £25,111 Sociology £21,869 Sports Science £20,447 Theology and Religious Studies £21,421 Town and Country Planning and Landscape Design £23,269 Veterinary Medicine £28,277 Average £23,131
How to choose a career
It’s true that some degree disciplines lead to big money starting salary faster than others – but don’t get too hung up on it.
There’s no point in earning £40,000 a year if it means you end up savouring loo breaks as an escape from the mindless monotony.
Choose something that you’re passionate about (or at least vaguely enjoy) and you’ll be more likely to stick at it, work harder, and be open to new opportunities – all routes to a healthy salary.
Don’t judge your future career (or any of your choices, for that matter!) on money alone.
Success could be owning your own business, travelling the world or anything in between. Keep your eyes on the prize, not just the paycheque, and you’ll find the right route for you. Good luck!