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...
The current average graduate salary in the UK is just shy of £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:
Expected graduate salaries in each industry
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).
Business, Marketing and 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.
While Graduate Recruitment Bureau puts the average salary for an Engineering graduate at £25,000, subject specialism can make a difference to your salary.
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.
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 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.
Graduate salary by degree
We've collated a list of how much graduates actually went on to earn on average, regardless of which industry they ended up in. We'll go into more detail for each industry further down!
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.
|Degree Subject||Average Graduate Salary|
|Anatomy, Pathology & Physiology||£23,036|
|Creative Arts & Design||£15,184|
|Aural & Oral Sciences||£24,076|
|Business & Management Studies||£24,336|
|Classics & Ancient History||£21,892|
|Drama, Dance & Cinematics||£17,940|
|East & South Asian Studies||£17,472|
|Electrical & Electronic Engineering||£26,416|
|Geography & Environmental Science||£23,348|
|History of Art, Architecture & Design||£20,956|
|Hospitality, Leisure, Recreation & Tourism||£19,240|
|Land & Property Management||£24,336|
|Librarianship & Information Management||£23,920|
|Middle Eastern & African Studies||£21,736|
|Optometry, Ophthalmology & Orthoptics||£18,304|
|Pharmacology & Pharmacy||£22,724|
|Physics & Astronomy||£26,312|
|Russian & East European Languages||£26,052|
|Theology & Religious Studies||£20,332|
|Town & Country Planning and Landscape Design||£23,608|
How to choose a career
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.