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Jobs & Careers

Average graduate salaries in the UK 2021

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 £24,000*, but we've also heard folk reporting everything between £16,000 and £90,000!

Of course, there are many factors which affect how big 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 for 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 – although 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 there's the potential to earn upwards of £40,000 later in your career if and when you progress to a more senior position.

Going for a career in the digital arts has the potential to offer you a higher salary. With everything shifting online, graphic and digital designers are pretty high in demand these days.

This means 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. Later on in your career, you could expect to earn in excess of £50,000 or even £60,000 a year depending on your role.

Banking and Accountancy

finance district of London The City

Salaries for Accountancy vary considerably depending on location, size of company and specialisation.

Graduates becoming Chartered Accountants can expect a starting salary of up to £30,000 with starting salaries averaging £23,180 (although graduates have reported earning anything between £17,000 and £50,000 in their first job).

Those who enter Banking (unsurprisingly) get the big bucks, with starting salaries in Investment Banking often sitting in the £30,000 – £40,000 range. This can quickly rise, too, with many Investment Bankers earning well over £100,000 a year plus bonuses.

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, Human Resources (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 Area Manager 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 – a BMW 3 series, so be precise.

A career in HR will see you start on something around the £20,000 mark (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.

If you're keen to find out more about the gender pay gap, have a read of our detailed guide.


Harry Potter class

Credit: Warner Bros

There are tonnes of ways of getting into teaching right now, many of which are generously funded.

As of 2020/21, the starting salary for qualified teachers in England and Wales is around £25,714 (£32,157 in inner London). In Scotland, you'll start on £27,498 in your probation year.

Going to university isn't all about the money. Here are the arguments for and against it being worth getting a degree.


team of business people

While the Graduate Recruitment Bureau puts the average salary for an Engineering graduate at £27,500, subject specialism can make a difference to your salary.

As we outline below, graduates of Chemical Engineering earn an average of £30,000 in their first job, while Civil Engineers nab an average starting salary of £27,700.


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 and Journalism can be anywhere from £15,000 – £26,000, and you're typically expected to start at the bottom and work your way through the ranks.

Unpaid internships are sadly rife in writing roles (although it's definitely possible to make money writing), 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. According to BECTU, the UK's media union, the recommended pay (if you get any, that is) is £7.93 – £14.15 per hour. Sadly, as competition is so fierce, there's little chance of your pay increasing.

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


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.

The Law Society recommends that Trainee Solicitors be paid at least £19,992 (£22,541 in London), but note that isn't an enforceable rule. However, depending on the role and the company, you could earn much more in your first job – up to £50,000 in some cases.

As for Pupil Barristers? The Bar Standards Board says that you must be paid at least £16,601 (£18,960 in London) for a full 12-month pupillage in England and Wales, however some can pay as much as £50,000 or more, depending on who you work for.

Life Sciences

Joey identical twin study Friends

Credit: Warner Bros

Trainee Clinical Scientists typically start on band 6 of the NHS' pay scale, which equates to £31,365 a year.

Biomedical Scientists, meanwhile, enter on band 5, where the salary for those with less than a year of experience is £24,907.

And 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 money and in less time, 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 £24,907.

Junior doctors in their first year of postgrad foundation training earn a minimum of £28,243 (boosted to £32,691 by Foundation Year 2). Once you've started training for a speciality, you can earn between £38,694 – £52,036.

Newly qualified Dentists can expect to earn around £30,000 a year, while in Veterinary Medicine the average starting salary ranges from £30,000 – £35,000.

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.

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
Accounting and Finance£25,000
Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering£28,000
African and Middle Eastern Studies£26,000
Agriculture and Forestry£23,500
American Studies£23,000
Anatomy and Physiology£25,000
Art and Design£21,000
Asian Studies£25,000
Biological Sciences£23,489
Business and Management Studies£25,000
Celtic Studies£23,000
Chemical Engineering£30,000
Civil Engineering£27,700
Communication and Media Studies£21,000
Complementary Medicine£25,000
Computer Science£27,000
Creative Writing£20,500
Drama, Dance and Cinematics£21,000
Electrical and Electronic Engineering£29,000
Food Science£24,000
Forensic Science£20,000
General Engineering£29,000
Geography and Environmental Science£24,000
History of Art, Architecture and Design£23,000
Iberian Languages£24,000
Land and Property Management£27,000
Materials Technology£26,000
Mechanical Engineering£28,000
Medical Technology£24,000
Optometry, Ophthalmics and Orthoptics£19,000
Pharmacology and Pharmacy£30,000
Physics and Astronomy£28,000
Russian and East European Languages£26,000
Social Policy£24,000
Social Work£29,000
Sports Science£23,000
Theology and Religious Studies£24,000
Tourism, Transport, Travel and Heritage Studies£22,000
Town and Country Planning and Landscape Design£25,000
Veterinary Medicine£31,000

Copyright Complete University Guide © 2021

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

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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.

* Based on data from HESA, reported by Luminate.
** This data represents average figures collated from multiple sources, including HESA, Graduate Recruitment Bureau, Prospects, NHS careers, All About Law, Bar Standards Board, Complete University Guide, National Careers Service, Office for National Statistics, Graduate Recruitment Bureau, CV Library and our own surveys.


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