Career Talk 06.07.21

Which are the highest paid graduate jobs?

Every university student wants to believe their chosen degree is going to lead to a well paid graduate job with juicy bonuses. But can you really expect to earn a big bucks as a starting salary, regardless of what you’ve studied?  Likewise, after four years of hard slog, could you discover…
Kim Connor Streich
Kim Connor Streich
highest paying

Every university student wants to believe their chosen degree is going to lead to a well paid graduate job with juicy bonuses. But can you really expect to earn a big bucks as a starting salary, regardless of what you’ve studied? 

Likewise, after four years of hard slog, could you discover your £50,000 degree was horribly overpriced as you go in search of paid jobs in the UK?

We’ll take the sting out of the discovery process by taking a look at the degree types and sectors they cover, and how they ranked in terms of pay, followed by an examination of what graduates can expect as a starting salary in several business sectors, from banking and law, to technology and health. 

The best paid degree subjects are medicine and dentistry, followed by veterinary science. Grads studying engineering and technology, as well as mathematical sciences were also high up the ranking, while law was among the lower-placed fields, among mass communications and documentation, and creative arts and design.

How much can graduates earn as a trainee lawyer?

The legal industry is among the UK’s highest paying sectors for new graduates. Students joining a large or medium-sized law company can expect to earn between salaries of between £22,500 and £50,000, which isn’t to be sniffed at. 

The Lawyer revealed entry-level salaries for grads have been steadily rising as they seek to retain top talent, especially in the face of stiff (and deep pocketed) competition from US firms. 

The difference between London rates and regional counterparts is stark, with some Capital law firms offering £50,000 compared to as little as £20,000 elsewhere. It will pay to shop around.  

View current graduate law opportunities

According to a 2019 survey, the average grad salary for digital and IT careers was £30,000. However, other analysts suggested the figure was much lower, between £21,000 and £25,000. That’s a big difference, by anyone’s standards. 

How much can graduates earn as a digital and IT trainee?

Digital and IT remain massively popular graduate industries, offering another vast field of good paying jobs, and while there is little room for negotiation with managers at graduate entry level, some companies do offer a broad salary range. 

Even better, the engineering and coding skills gained as part of your degree could have a significant bearing on where you end up in the professional and finance scheme of things. 

View current digital and IT opportunities

How much can graduates earn as a trainee in the finance industry?

Banking and the financial services sector offers some of the highest paid graduate jobs in the UK. The Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2020 survey revealed an earnings range of £33,000 in London and £27,000 in north-west England, with the rest of the country falling between. 

It also depends on what financial firms are prepared to pay. Land a job with Capital One and, depending on the programme, you could be paid between £35,000 and £40,000 for your graduate starting salary (and that’s without any mention of related bonuses). 

For grads seeking a career in investment banking, good news! They are among the highest paid graduate jobs, with salaries starting at between £30,000 and £40,000. 

If you make it all the way to the top, a senior executive in investment banking can earn well over £100,000 a year – plus related bonuses. 

View current finance opportunities

How much can graduates earn as a trainee in the health industry?

We all love the NHS. It’s the backbone of the UK, but if you read the news, you’ll know it’s not one of the best paid sectors in the country, with long hours and sometimes tough working conditions. 

That said, if medicine is your calling, the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme starts at around £24,628 (with a location allowance if applicable), while grads embarking on a career in adult nursing face a first year salary of £24,907, and first-year doctors can earn £28,243. 

If you’re looking at NHS jobs and wondering if there is another way to look after people’s health, that answer’s yes! 

Dentistry or, if you are a graduate who wants to work with animals, are both much better paid jobs, on a par with investment banks with a starting salary of £30,000 and up to £35,000, respectively. 

View current health opportunities

How much can graduates earn as a trainee in the energy and engineering industries?

These are two huge professional industries and both are highly competitive. When it comes to which are the best paid… well. Let’s take a look at the energy sector which, with the growth of renewables, offers a wide array of paid jobs. 

The starting salary for energy engineers is between £20,000 and £30,000, it’s not quite investment banking level, but they can rise to above £60,000 for senior jobs at big engineering firms. 

For engineers, as of 2021, the average graduate starting salary was £28,000 but like so many industries, it is wide-ranging and offers many opportunities for a decent graduate starting salary. 

If you can get some experience under your belt and become chartered, pay can increase to between £57,000 and £77,000 per year. 

View current energy and engineering opportunities

How much can graduates earn as a built environment trainee?

This takes in a huge number of sectors and skills, so the pay will differ too. Built environment covers construction industry jobs, including civil and structural engineering, construction management, architecture, quantity and building surveying. 

The Institute of Student Employers’ 2020 annual survey revealed the median graduate salary was £27,500 but the financial data can vary wildly depending on which sector you enter. 

The Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2020 survey revealed a graduate civil engineer can earn from £24,000 in the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, north-east England and south-west England, compared to £30,000 in London. 

A graduate quantity surveyor can earn from £21,500 in Northern Ireland to £29,000 in London.

View current built environment opportunities

How much can graduates earn as a retail and fast moving consumer goods trainee?

Retail and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) are two of the UK’s biggest sales-based industries (the FMCG sector is worth around £104 billion alone). That’s not reflected in graduate-level pay, which can vary from £19,000 to £21,000 depending on the firm and location. 

If your heart is in sales rather than investment banking, don’t worry. Starting salaries for junior supply chain analysts or planners are healthier at £21,000, while a junior buyer can expect pay of around £26,000. 

Graduate jobs in marketing are among the best paid, at a competitive £21,000 to £24,000. Expect to see these salaries head north fast if you are promoted to mid and senior sales roles or become an executive. 

View current retail opportunities

How much can graduates earn as a trainee in the charity sector?

The UK is home to about 166,000 charities, with 827,000 paid jobs. Noble it may be, but it’s not one of the highest paying sectors (investment banking is where the top paying roles are) and a graduate can expect starting salaries of around £27,000. 

One of the most unusual things about the charity sector is it’s one of those rare occasions where work experience can actually be more important and valuable than in other industries. 

Some charities offer graduate programmes, for instance the Cancer Research’s scheme offers a starting salary of £24,000 plus benefits, while The Wellcome Trust will pay £25,000 per year over its two-year course. 

View current charity opportunities

How much can graduates earn as a trainee in the public sector?

Graduate jobs in the UK public sector are wide-ranging and cover a number of fields, from national security to forestry and financial. It’s no surprise then, that starting salaries are just as varied, beginning at around £17,000 up to roughly £30,000, depending on where you apply. 

As with so many firms, London weighting can be a factor, and grad jobs outside the Capital tend to pay less. 

View current public sector opportunities

Methodology

We used data from the Higher Education Graduate Outcomes Statistics: UK, 2017/18 – Salary and location of leavers in employment, published in June 2020, to establish the median starting salaries for jobs in the UK. 

We also referred to the Institute of Student Employers’ 2020 annual survey, as well as the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2020 survey for broader figures. 

Our NHS figures came from https://www.nhsgraduates.co.uk/ and Save the Student, which also provided statistics for investment banks.

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