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Jobs & Careers

Highest paying jobs and degrees 2024

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.

woman 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 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, 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 – £84,131
  2. Marketing, Sales and Advertising Directors – £83,015
  3. Information Technology Directors – £80,000
  4. Public Relations and Communications Directors – £79,886
  5. Directors in Logistics, Warehousing and Transport – £72,177
  6. Aircraft Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers – £71,676
  7. Financial Managers and Directors – £70,000
  8. Functional Managers and Directors (n.e.c.*) – £69,933
  9. Specialist Medical Practitioners – £66,031
  10. Head Teachers and Principals – £66,014
  11. Train and Tram Drivers – £64,348
  12. Senior Police Officers – £59,053
  13. Electrical Engineers – £53,488
  14. Business and Financial Project Management Professionals – £52,896
  15. Sales Accounts and Business Development Managers – £52,495
  16. Barristers and Judges – £52,416
  17. Solicitors and Lawyers – £52,296
  18. Business, Research and Administrative Professionals (n.e.c.*) – £52,241
  19. IT project managers – £51,933
  20. IT Business Analysts, Architects and Systems Designers – £51,698.

* 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: £84,131

    In the UK, Chief Executives may also be known as Managing Directors or CEOs. They 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. 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 CEOs to be educated to at least an undergraduate degree level.

    Studying a business-related degree and 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. They may also have professional or postgraduate qualifications such as an MBA. Leadership skills and thick skin are essential, too.

  2. Marketing, Sales and Advertising Directors

    Median salary: £83,015

    Marketing, sales and advertising 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. Many employers often prefer 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 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.

  3. Information Technology Directors

    Median salary: £80,000

    Information Technology Directors are responsible for coordinating all the IT equipment and other resources necessary for an organisation to function effectively.

    Again, roles of this kind aren't restricted to the private or public sector. Any medium or large organisation is likely to need somebody to manage its IT and communicative operations. However, the highest-paying jobs are likely to be in larger companies in the private sector.

    Despite the lofty job title and salary, there's no specific set of requirements for anyone looking to become an Information Technology Director.

    A relevant degree or qualification will obviously help you make your way onto the career ladder. But, the most important asset when aiming for this highly-paid role is relevant work experience – and lots of it.

    What's more, given the number of plates you'll likely have to be spinning at once, skills such as organisation, communication and flexibility are desirable too. But, then again, these are things that most employers are looking for anyway.

  4. Public Relations and Communications Directors

    Median salary: £79,886

    Jobs in 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 a Public Relations and Communication 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 of experience at the senior management level to directly apply for a director's job.

  5. Directors in Logistics, Warehousing and Transport

    Median salary: £72,177

    Logistics, warehousing and transport directors play an important role in overseeing and optimising the entire supply chain of a business. As you can imagine, they have quite a lot of responsibilities and they have to work with many different departments.

    Having analytical and problem-solving skills are essential. As you'll be working with a lot of other departments to make sure everything runs smoothly, working on your communication skills is also a great idea.

    Similarly to other jobs on this list, you usually have to work your way up in a company to reach this position. But starting with a degree in Logistics, Supply Chain Management or Business will put you on the right path.

  6. Aircraft Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers

    aeroplane flying in sky

    Credit: Andrey Armyagov – Shutterstock

    Median salary: £71,676

    It seems that aviation is the field to go into if you're after some sky-high wages...

    Pilot salaries vary according to employer, experience and the type of aircraft being flown. Even so, being a pilot is one of the highest-paying jobs you can get.

    While it's now possible to gain a BSc in Aviation Management with Pilot Training, degrees that demonstrate you have a thorough understanding of maths and physics may also provide you with an advantage.

    An Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) is a necessary prerequisite. In order to retain their licence, pilots are required to pass certain exams every six months.

    A degree can, therefore, be useful preparation for balancing studying with other commitments.

  7. Financial Managers and Directors

    Median salary: £70,000

    Financial managers and directors look after a company's financial well-being. 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 this position. Experience is key if you want to reach 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.

  8. Functional Managers and Directors

    Median salary: £69,933

    Functional Managers and Directors take the 8th spot on the list of highest-paying jobs. However, the broad nature of this category makes the job description a little vague. This is because this job title includes all other jobs within this industry that aren't classified elsewhere.

    Essentially, these managers and directors are overseeing a specific aspect of an organisation. This is often managing a department or team. The responsibilities vary significantly depending on what industry they work for, the size of the company and the focus of the department.

    They are responsible for providing resources for a project and making sure no problems arise that could prevent projects from progressing.

    Many big companies have Functional Managers and Directors. While degrees in Economics, Accountancy, Business or Finance can be helpful, it depends on what industry you want to work in.

  9. Specialist Medical Practitioners

    Median salary: £66,031

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

    The term 'Specialist Medical Practitioner' is quite broad but includes jobs such as anaesthetist, doctor, general practitioner, paediatrician, and 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. It also depends on what area you would specialise in.

    The process of becoming a Specialist 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.

  10. Head Teachers and Principals

    Median salary: £66,014

    As a Head Teacher or Principal, you're responsible for managing a school and creating the right atmosphere for both the children and staff to thrive.

    You can probably already guess that you have to gain a lot of experience working at schools before you can step up to take on this role. Head Teachers and Principals usually work their way up. If this is your goal, it's best to start by becoming a qualified teacher first.

    It's also critical to gain great leadership, critical thinking and decision-making skills – all of which you can learn with experience.

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 top-earning careers, a relevant degree and work experience can help you gain a foothold on the occupational ladder.

In the meantime, find out how to get a graduate job.


The 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) 2023 (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.

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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