Starting salary prospects for your degree

They might not be as grim as you'd expect.


While the idea of university as a place of knowledge for knowledge’s sake and personal growth is appealing, most people going to university are, at some point or another, going to have to work for a living. As such, choosing one’s courses and ultimately degree holds a great deal of importance for after graduation.

The widespread stereotype about degrees is that the more “artsy” the degree is, the more likely a person who takes it will end up in a poorly salaried job. But is it true that your average English student is destined to become a barista? And is there any more truth in the supposition that medical students are en route to becoming doctors with their own yachts?

The results hold some surprises.

According to data from the Graduate Recruitment Bureau and the National Careers Service, law graduates make nearly the same amount of money as their peers studying sociology. If we’re being pedantic, it might be enlightening to note that they actually make £97 less than the starting pay of £20,518 that the average sociology graduate can expect to make.

And this is not the only situation in which arts degrees make more than a seemingly more lucrative degree in the sciences. Philosophy graduates (starting salary £24,377), for example, make over a thousand pounds more per year than graduates of accounting and finance, who can anticipate earning a comparatively paltry £23,180 in their first year in the workforce. A philosophy grad can actually expect to make around the same or more than graduates of a whole host of science degrees, including Business and Management Studies, Chemistry, Politics, and several degrees in Medicine.

Perhaps most surprising is that some of the best-paid starting salaries for arts degrees belong to Librarianship & Information Management (£24,576) and Social Work (£24,761).

However, there’s no beating around the bush. The 16 degrees that are best-paid after graduation all belong to the sciences and medicine. While there are many surprises further down the pay grade, up here are the usual suspects: Economics, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, and other related degrees. The question for an undecided student gearing up for his or her very own island is not then “arts or sciences?” but, instead, “which sciences pay best?”

Something to note is that within the field of medicine is the greatest amount of variation in graduate pay of any general “field” of study. Students interested in medical school could graduate earning a starting salary of anywhere between £16,286 (Ophthalmology) and £30,432 (Dentistry). As such, prospective medical students, especially those having to borrow a great deal of money, ought to look hard at which specialisations will be most rewarding on graduation.

Of course, it’s also important to keep in mind that these are salaries for newly graduated persons, not average pay over an entire career. The salary ceiling for an accountant is much higher than that of a social worker, for example. Considering your mid-career salary is as or more important as your first paycheck.

However, it’s still important to look at graduate pay, not least because it’s important for those in university now to set expectations of what their lifestyle will be like once they graduate. Management students might want to temper their delusions of a Rothschild lifestyle, and history undergrads might be cheered by knowing that a ramen noodle diet isn’t inevitable.


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