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Jobs & Careers

Highest paying jobs and degrees 2022

At a time when university is at its most expensive, today's graduates face one of the toughest job markets ever. Cash in on your investment with this list of the highest paying jobs in the UK.

women holding purse next to money bag

Credit: Zhukova Valentyna (background), Luis Molinero (woman) – Shutterstock

Despite rising numbers of graduates, studies still suggest that it's worth getting a degree to significantly enhance your lifetime earnings potential. We've done the research to help you really maximise your salary packet after university with this list of the best-paid jobs and highest paying degrees in the UK.

The methodology is outlined below, but note that these figures don't account for bonuses or other benefits. Instead, they refer to each job's median salary (before tax), according to official government statistics.

We've also looked at a handful of the best-paid jobs in more detail, explaining which degrees will help you enter the industry. Of course, you shouldn't expect to go straight into the upper end of the salary range on day one – but if you want to make it there someday, these career choices might be for you.

You're unlikely to be earning this much straight out of uni. For those figures, you'll want to check out the list of average graduate salaries.

Highest paying jobs in the UK

These are the best-paid jobs in the UK:

  1. Chief Executives and Senior Officials – £90,000
  2. Legal Professionals (n.e.c.*) – £76,522
  3. Marketing and Sales Directors – £75,631
  4. Brokers – £66,813
  5. Advertising and Public Relations Directors – £64,641
  6. Medical Practitioners – £64,504
  7. Financial Managers and Directors – £64,384
  8. Information Technology and Telecommunications Directors – £63,810
  9. Senior Professionals of Educational Establishments – £59,841
  10. Train and Tram Drivers – £59,198
  11. Senior Police Officers – £58,734
  12. Functional Managers and Directors (n.e.c.*) – £53,919
  13. Ship and Hovercraft Officers – £53,330
  14. Health Services and Public Health Managers and Directors – £51,599
  15. Higher Education Teaching Professionals – £51,034
  16. Business and Financial Project Management Professionals – £51,009
  17. Business, Research and Administrative Professionals (n.e.c.*) – £50,787
  18. Electrical Engineers – £50,354
  19. IT Project and Programme Managers – £50,343
  20. Taxation Experts – £50,214.

* n.e.c. (not elsewhere classified) refers to all other jobs within a given industry that aren't classified under another title.

How to get one of the best-paid jobs in the UK

If you're aiming for the very top, here's some more info on the highest-paying jobs in the UK:

  1. Chief Executives and Senior Officials

    mark zuckerberg talking

    Credit: Frederic Legrand - COMEO – Shutterstock

    Median salary: £90,000

    In the UK, Chief Executives may also be known as Managing Directors or CEOs, and are the highest-ranking individuals within an organisation. As the top dogs, it's probably not a surprise that they also occupy one of the best-paid jobs around.

    You'll be happy to hear that there are no stipulations for Chief Executives to hold any formal qualifications and, notably, some of the world's most famous CEOs dropped out of uni without attaining a degree (including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson).

    However, unless you follow in their footsteps and start your own company, you'll find that most organisations require their head honchos to be educated to at least an undergraduate degree level.

    Studying a business-related degree and actually starting your own business is likely to set you in good stead for a very well paid career at the top.

    Many CEOs have previously served on the board of directors and may also have professional or postgraduate qualifications such as an MBA. Leadership skills and thick skin are essential, too.

  2. Legal Professionals

    Median salary: £76,522

    As we explained earlier, this one is technically 'Legal Professionals (n.e.c.)', with 'n.e.c.' meaning 'not elsewhere classified'. In other words, this includes all jobs that could be classified as 'Legal Professional' that weren't covered by a more specific listing elsewhere in the data.

    Anyway, explanations out of the way – there are clearly a lot of well-paid roles in this field, despite the relatively low starting salary for Law graduates.

    The highest-paying jobs are in commercial and corporate law but, as you might expect, these are also among the most competitive too. While other areas, such as personal or family law, don't pay quite as much, you'll still find your salary is very healthy – particularly as you climb the career ladder.

    And, despite what you may have heard, you don't need a Law degree to work in the industry. Although this is useful, graduates of other subjects simply have to take the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course which lasts a year and puts you on the right track. CILEx, though slightly lesser-known, also offers a number of ways for non-Law grads to work in law.

    In fact, many people even argue that studying a non-Law degree and then working in the industry is the better option, as you can then take the knowledge and skills acquired from your undergraduate degree to stand out in a super competitive field.

  3. Marketing and Sales Director

    professionals with laptops and papers

    Median salary: £75,631

    Sales and marketing are crucial to the success of many organisations. It doesn't matter how good your product is if no one knows about it!

    But marketing isn't solely confined to the private sector – there's a diverse range of roles within the public sector and not-for-profit organisations, although these may not be quite as well-paid.

    As a marketing executive, you could be involved in anything from promoting a new product to raising awareness of a charity.

    Like many sectors, marketing is highly competitive, with many employers preferring graduates with related degrees in Marketing or Business. Previous work experience is also an advantage, whether gained through internships, holiday jobs or placements.

    You can also find a whole host of great specialised online courses in marketing that you can do for free. These will keep you up to date on the latest practices (marketing evolves pretty quickly) and will look great on your CV.

    As for sales, things are a little more open. It's still exceptionally competitive (and unlike many other jobs, it's much easier to measure who the best salesperson is), but there's less of a need for a degree. Instead, experience and a natural talent for the role are often more important.

  4. Brokers

    Median salary: £66,813

    If you're after one of the best paying jobs in the UK, you could consider becoming a broker.

    Brokers essentially manage clients' investment portfolios. From commodities, stocks and shares to foreign exchanges and insurance, they advise the best deals to make – and, in return, receive a fee or commission.

    Clients can vary widely, from large corporations to individuals, but being able to build relationships with these clients is essential. Having great analytical skills comes in handy when looking at data and market trends, and being able to negotiate deals is of the essence.

    While you don't need a specific degree to become a broker, most employers do require you to have at least an undergraduate qualification. Obviously, studying Finance, Accountancy or Business at university will help you get a step ahead, but training is usually given in-house.

  5. Advertising and Public Relations Directors

    work meeting with charts and laptop

    Credit: Master1305 - Shutterstock

    Median salary: £64,641

    Marketing and advertising jobs may seem slightly similar but, while there is some overlap, there are quite a few differences.

    Jobs in advertising and public relations are incredibly varied. Planning and delivering communication and advertising campaigns are at the heart of this job, but it could also include organising conferences, seminars and exhibitions to help promote the organisation you work for.

    To become an Advertising and Public Relations Director, it's best to get a degree in Public Relations, Communications or Marketing. Other relevant degrees are also a possibility, but you'll always have to gain several years' experience at the senior management level to directly apply for a director's job.

  6. Medical Practitioners

    Median salary: £64,504

    You may have already guessed that a Medical Practitioner is one of the best paying jobs in the UK. These people are saving lives after all!

    The term 'Medical Practitioner' is quite broad but includes jobs such as anaesthetist, doctor, general practitioner, paediatrician, radiologist amongst others. Your salary will depend on whether you end up working in a general practice or if you decide to specialise in an area of modern medicine (and on what area you would specialise in).

    The process of becoming a Medical Practitioner can be quite rigorous. You'll need to follow a Medical degree at university, which generally takes between four and six years. After that, you'll have to follow a two-year foundation course of general training before starting specialist training.

  7. Financial Managers and Directors

    table with charts and a calculator

    Credit: CrizzyStudio - Shutterstock

    Median salary: £64,384

    Financial managers and directors look after a company's financial wellbeing. As the name suggests, they manage and plan financial strategies for long-term profitable growth.

    Responsibilities can vary depending on the size of the company you work for and the sector. Similar to other jobs on this list, you'll have to work your way up to it as experience is key in reaching that top-level salary.

    There are no set requirements for this role, but a Finance-related degree can help massively. Some companies may even require you to have a master's degree for senior positions, but it depends on your employer. Adding any additional qualifications to your CV can also pay off.

While the above salaries won't reflect graduate starting salaries, don't despair; a degree should still be seen as an investment in future earning potential.

And although there might not be a shortcut to the top-earning careers, a relevant degree and work experience can help you gain a foothold on the occupational ladder.

How far you climb is up to you. Good luck!

In the meantime, find out how to land your first graduate job.

Methodology

Data on average earnings for the highest paying jobs is compiled and made available by the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) 2021 (provisional).

The figures we've used were sourced from the dataset 'Earnings and hours worked, occupation by four-digit SOC'. We looked at the full-time gross annual pay and sorted the data by median – as per the ONS' recommendation. Bonuses have not been accounted for.

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