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The question on every graduate’s lips is: what can you expect to be paid in your first year of work? No need to use The Force – we’ve got everything you need to know right here.
The average graduate starting salary is a fairly robust £25,000, though we’ve also seen folk reporting anything between £16,000 and £70,000! Who gets what depends on what subject you study, what industry you go into and even where in the country your dream job is based. Cue our guide to first-job wages. You’ll find the going rate for some common careers below, followed by a full table of degree subjects.
What’s the going rate?
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Art (creative, visual & performance)
The graduate job market for Art students isn’t flush with cash. For those wanting to get into Creative Arts, (design, music, and performing or visual arts) expect a salary of less than £19,000 for your time, though which industry you work in could make a difference.
If the muse rather than money drives you, there’s lots of scope for self-employment and freelancing but, without steady income, you may need a part-time job to cover your costs. This can drop salaries to around £10,000.
Working with art, instead of making it, isn’t always a plum deal either: a typical starting salary for a Museum Curator is £16,000, but with potential to earn top dollar later in your career.
Business, Marketing & Management
A first salary in Retail Management will likely be in the range of £12,000-£22,000, but some graduate training schemes pay handsomely for impressive candidates. Budget supermaket chain Aldi is a go-to for its grad scheme, which pays £42,000 in the first year. If that doesn’t quite do it for you, they’ll throw in a car, too.
A career in HR will see you start on more like £25,000, while Marketers can expect anything between £18,000 and £32,000.
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Your career path will depend on what you specialise in, but IT industries are on the up and offer heaps of choice: programming, developing, systems analysis, consulting, web design, security, games and apps. Starting salaries are typically in the £18,000-£28,000 range, but graduates have reported receiving anything from £16,000 to £70,000 in IT roles.
There are tons of ways into teaching right now, many generously funded. Starting salaries for qualified Teachers in England and Wales are around £22,244 (£27,819 in inner London). In Scotland you’ll start on probationary pay of £21,438.
While Graduate Recruitment Bureau peg first salaries for Engineers between £16,000-£21,000, subject specialism can double your bundle.
Graduates of Chemical Engineering report earning between £25,000 and £30,000 in their first job, while Civil Engineers say they nabbed between £21,000 and an eye-watering £38,000.
Humanities degrees are fairly flexible when it comes to job hunting. One 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 £12,000-£18,000, 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 net a better starting position. There’s scope for freelancing, too, especially in writing, editing, design and photography. See the National Union of Journalists to get an idea of rates.
The bottom rung in Film and Television work is as a Runner: average starting pay (if you get any, that is) is around £7-£8 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 opps.
It’s easy to think of Law as a quick win for your pay packet, but the reality is starting salaries vary massively. At the most competitive firms, you could get between £22,000 and £42,000 as a Trainee Solicitor. Elsewhere, £16,000 to £30,000 is the going average.
Pupil Barristers in England and Wales earn at least £12,000 a year, which can rise to £40,000 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 around £26,000 at Band 6 on the NHS pay scale, while Biomedical Scientists start at Band 5 and earn from £21,692. Remember, in the NHS it’s always possible to go up Band levels as your skills and experience increase.
Salaries for Accountancy vary considerably depending on location, size of company and specialisation, with starting salaries averaging £20,000-£25,000 (some graduates have reported earning anything between £17,000 and £50,000 in their first job).
Graduates who enter Banking may not get kudos, but they certainly get the bucks, starting off between £18,000-£29,000, or £30,000 and up in investment banking.
Depending on discipline, a Maths degree can also lead to careers in IT.
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. You’re likely to earn more much faster, however, plus have access to better leave, sick pay and other job benefits. The big money is in specialising, but either way, the further training required can be hard-going and for the long haul.
Graduates going into Adult Nursing start at Band 5 on the NHS pay scale, giving them a starting salary of £21,692.
Junior doctors in their first year of postgrad foundation training earn a minimum of £22,636 (boosted to £28,076 by Foundation Year 2). Doctors training for a speciality earn a basic salary of between £30,002 and £47,175. 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 are around £26,000 and up.
Starting salary by degree
To flesh out the typical salaries above, we’ve collated a list of how much graduates actually went on to earn on average, 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.
|Degree Subject||Average Graduate Salary (£)|
|Accounting & Finance||£27,149|
|Art (creative, visual, performance)||£19,000|
|Classics & Ancient History||£21,667|
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 earning £40,000 a year if it has you savouring loo breaks as an escape from the mindless monotony. Pick a job by your passion instead and you’ll be more likely to stick at it, work harder, and be open to new opportunities – all routes to a healthy salary.
That said, don’t judge your future career – or any of your choices – on the money alone. Success could be owning your own business, travelling the world or anything in between. Keep your eyes on the prize and not the price tag, and you’ll find your own niche. Good luck!