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Jobs & Careers

Average graduate salaries in the UK 2020

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...

Graduate cap and fifty pound note

Credit: ANDRANIK HAKOBYAN, kamui29, By Abstract and Background – Shutterstock

The current average graduate 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.

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)

Paint on a palette

Credit: Elena Efimova – Shutterstock

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

finance district of London The City

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

woman at a laptop

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.

Computer Science

computer coding on a screen

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.

Education

Harry Potter class

Credit: Warner Bros

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.

Engineering

team of business people

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

Jim Carrey Bruce Almighty typing fast

Credit: Universal Pictures

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, MarketingTeaching 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.

Have a look at BECTU (the UK's media union), or big players such as the BBC, for training and apprenticeship opportunities.

Law

elle legally blonde

Credit: MGM Distribution Co.

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!

Life Sciences

Joey identical twin study Friends

Credit: Warner Bros

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

Scrubs characters sharing a lab coat

Credit: ABC

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 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.

* This data represents average figures collated from multiple sources, including the Office for National Statistics, Graduate Recruitment Bureau, CV Library and our own surveys.

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.

SubjectGraduate starting salary
Average
£23,131
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

Copyright Complete University Guide © 2020

These are the subjects with the highest earning potential, but what about where you study? Check out the best universities for graduate salary.

How to choose a career

500 days of summer character with graduate cap

Credit: Dune Entertainment

It's true that some degree disciplines lead to big money 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!

Can't wait to start earning the big bucks? Check out the best-paid part-time jobs for students and make some serious cash.

Sources: HESA, Graduate Recruitment Bureau, Prospects, NHS careers, All About Law, Bar Standards Board, Complete University Guide, National Careers Service

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