For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.


This is how much your degree will earn you in 10 years

According to our most recent student survey, only 57% of students believe university is good value for money. So what will you earn from your degree?

clock and twenty pound notes

With tuition fees as high as £9,250 a year and a typical student now leaving university with over £45,000 of debt, it's understandable that the value of a university degree is being questioned.

Before you get a degree it can be really easy to assume you'll find your dream job upon graduation, but this often isn't the case.

The latest Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data puts the median graduate earnings five years after graduation at £28,800. However, there is a lot of variation in earnings depending on the degree subject studied.

A recent release from the Department for Education suggests the government will be cracking down on 'rip off' degree courses that fail to deliver good outcomes for students. This follows previous estimates from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that one in five graduates would be better off financially if they hadn't gone to university.

The long term earning potential of degrees

SubjectsOne year after grad*Three years after grad**Five years after grad***Ten years after grad****
Agriculture, food and related studies£19,300£22,300£23,700£25,600
Allied Health£23,400£27,400£29,600£29,600
Architecture, building and planning£24,800£30,700£33,900£40,200
Business and management£21,200£25,600£29,800£35,000
Celtic studies£7,700£24,600£29,400£28,300
Combined and general studies£21,500£24,500£25,900£27,400
Creative Arts & Design£15,700£19,700£22,300£24,600
Education and teaching£20,100£23,700£26,300£25,900
English Studies£17,900£23,400£25,900£29,900
General, applied and forensic sciences£19,000£23,400£25,900£31,000
Geography, earth and environmental studies£20,800£26,300£30,300£35,400
Health and social care£23,000£24,800£26,600£29,200
History and archaeology£19,300£24,500£28,100£33,900
Languages and area studies£21,200£26,300£30,300£35,800
Materials and technology£21,200£23,700£27,400£33,200
Mathematical Sciences£25,200£31,000£37,600£45,600
Media, journalism and communications£17,200£21,200£24,500£29,200
Medical sciences£26,600£31,800£35,400£39,100
Medicine and dentistry£39,400£49,300£52,600£57,300
Nursing and midwifery£29,600£31,000£31,800£32,800
Performing arts£13,600£17,900£20,800£24,900
Pharmacology, toxicology and pharmacy£25,900£32,500£37,600£39,400
Philosophy and religious studies£19,700£24,800£28,100£33,600
Physics and astronomy£25,900£32,500£36,100£44,200
Sociology, social policy and anthropology£19,000£23,000£25,900£28,800
Sport and exercise sciences£17,200£22,300£25,900£32,100
Veterinary sciences£30,300£32,800£34,300£32,100

Stats taken from *2018/2019 academic year **2016/2017 academic year ***2014/2015 academic year ****2009/2010 academic year

Students often take on the debt of university because they believe it will be worth it in the long run, and lead to them getting a better job.

However, MPs have said many university graduates are being sold a 'false dream' and aren't getting a good enough return on their degrees.

And with the average debt after an undergraduate degree now over £45,000, some degrees are looking pretty expensive considering the earning potential.

The table above, formed using LEO Graduate outcomes data, highlights the importance of choosing the right degree if you're hoping to earn big.

For example, five years after graduation, the median salary for those with degrees in the performing arts was £20,800, in contrast to £52,600 for those who graduated with degrees in medicine and dentistry.

The arts and more creative subjects lead to lower financial rewards no matter what the timescale. In contrast, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) degrees lead to higher earnings, both in the short and long term.

The data also shows that even after 10 years, more than 10% of degrees studied will lead to median earnings of less than £27,295 – the current threshold for repaying your Student Loan. In other words, these graduates won't start paying their Student Loans back even 10 years after accepting their degree certificate.

Is university worth the cost?

piggy bank with graduate cap

Despite the £9,250 per year tuition fees on most courses, the government only expects 27% of graduates from the 2022/2023 academic year to earn enough to repay their loans in full. This could be seen as an incentive to still go to university. Why worry about the size of your loan if you're never going to pay it back?

However, the Student Loan repayment system has recently changed. For students in England and Wales who started university in 2023 or later, the repayment threshold will drop and the number of years before the loan is written off will increase. This means that lower-earning graduates will end up repaying a lot more of their loans.

On average, graduates still earn more than those who have not been to university. But many sources have noted the decline in the value of a university degree, despite tuition fees and living costs increasing.

According to LinkedIn, between 2021-2022, the number of job postings not requiring a degree rose by 90%. And their more recent report into the 10 most in-demand skills employers look for also suggests that hard skills and qualifications are not valued as highly as previously.

This further puts into question whether students are any better off studying for a degree than if they had decided to opt for an alternative to university, like an apprenticeship.

How have the government responded?

The Government wants to limit the number of students recruited onto courses that fail to deliver good graduate outcomes, whilst boosting the number of spots available on technical courses (which often have better employment rates and earnings potential).

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a Department for Education release:

The UK is home to some of the best universities in the world and studying for a degree can be immensely rewarding.

But too many young people are being sold a false dream and end up doing a poor-quality course at the taxpayers’ expense that doesn’t offer the prospect of a decent job at the end of it.

That is why we are taking action to crack down on rip-off university courses, while boosting skills training and apprenticeships provision.

This will help more young people to choose the path that is right to help them reach their potential and grow our economy.

[There is] a substantial minority who don't earn much but get left with big debts. We should steer people away from courses that don't lead to good outcomes.

The suggestions are fairly radical. What about the people who want to study the degrees that 'don't earn enough' because they have an interest in the subject? Is it really appropriate to assess the value of a university education solely on earning potential?

Want a more detailed breakdown of graduate salaries? We've listed the average graduate earnings for every subject.

Lucy Skoulding

WRITTEN BY Lucy Skoulding

Lucy Skoulding specialised in student news reporting while writing for Save the Student, sharing the latest data and top stories affecting our readers.
Read more


Tweet / Instagram DM / Facebook DM / Email