Upon graduating university, navigating the world of work can be confusing. You’ve just earned the degree you have been working hard towards for at least three years and are ready to put all that knowledge and experience to good use – but finding a job can be easier said than done.
Although it should never be the only factor you take into account, one key thing to consider when looking at job opportunities is the salary. This article will be a guide on the average graduate salaries in the UK, to give you an idea of the typical pay ranges you should expect to be offered.
In 2022, the average graduate salary was £24,291. This is the average yearly pay for people who have just graduated from university with a degree, often starting their first full-time job. However, more information is needed to put this information into context.
Lower graduate salaries are nearer £15,000 per year, while others report earning over £60,000. This difference is due to many factors, such as the industry you work in, the degree you achieved, and whether or not you are working in London. Across the whole working life, the average graduate salary is £36,000.
Although there is a clear average salary, there’s definitely more to consider. Keep reading for plenty more information about graduate salaries in the UK, including information about different job sectors and degree types.
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What is the average graduate salary in the UK?
Overall, the average yearly salary for all graduates across the UK in 2022 was £24,291. This number can sound a little bit abstract – what does £24,000 actually mean? Is it a good salary? For context, graduates earn approximately £7,000 more per year than non-graduates.
This information, along with lots of other relevant statistics about graduate salaries, can be found on this page from standout-cv.com.
Additionally, most people leave university aged 21, meaning the minimum wage is slightly lower than it is once you turn 23. In the 2022/23 tax year, this was £9.18 an hour for those aged 21 or 22.
If you work a full-time 40-hour week, this gives around £19,000 a year – several thousand lower than the average graduate salary. To learn more about minimum wages in the UK, check out this governmental guide.
Remember that in most cases, your salary will naturally increase over the years. This could be because you turn 23 and are entitled to higher pay, or simply because you gain more experience and earn promotions in your job. £24,000 is the average starting salary, not the average across your working life.
The average across your career is estimated to be £36,000 for graduates in England, according to this source at statista.com. This shows how salaries increase through your working life.
Another useful comparison is that you do not need to start paying your student loan back until you are earning more than £27,295 a year in England and Wales. If you are earning the average salary, you will likely have a few years before any of your salary is taken off to repay your tuition fees.
What affects a graduate’s starting salary?
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every graduate is paid this amount for their first job. Average pay varies significantly, with some earning much less and some earning tens of thousands more when they graduate.
One of the main things that affect your starting salary is the field you go into. For example, jobs in the creative arts sector generally have lower starting salaries for graduates than jobs to do with business and finance.
This article from savethestudent.org has a full breakdown of different jobs sectors, and the range of salaries you can expect for each. Among the highest average salaries are in the field of medicine, of around £35,000 per year, and chemical engineering, at £30,000 per year. On the lower end of the scale are ecology and acting, both averaging £20,000 per year.
Remember, these numbers are just averages to give you a rough guide as to what you can expect to earn from your first job. Some will earn more, some less – it is more important that you genuinely enjoy your job, as you will be working for a very long time!
Another factor affecting your salary is whether or not you are living in London. Due to the high cost of living there, the minimum living wage is slightly higher than for the rest of the UK.
Additionally, the city is home to many large businesses and employers which may be more able to offer higher salaries. Therefore, the average graduate salary is slightly higher in London than elsewhere.
Another thing that affects your starting salary is the type of degree you have completed. You are likely more employable having completed a master’s degree or even a doctorate in your field.
This is because these are a higher level of education than university, so are comparatively difficult, and require more experience. While they are by no means necessary to have a successful career, having one of these degrees may affect your starting salary.
What is the average master’s graduate salary?
As expected, achieving higher-level postgraduate degrees such as a master’s increases your average salary. Similarly to other jobs, the starting salary is likely to be lower than the overall average, then increase through the years.
According to this Statista article previously mentioned, people with a postgraduate degree earn an average of £42,000 per year. This is £6,000 more than those with just an undergraduate degree.
What is the highest graduate salary in the UK?
As mentioned, some of the highest starting salaries are in STEM fields, such as medicine and chemical engineering. However, these are groups of jobs. When looking at specific graduate programmes, it is often finance and investment banking companies who offer the highest starting salaries.
This article from glide.co.uk lists some of the highest-paid graduate schemes available. Number 1 on the list is a £65,000 graduate scheme from Rothschilds, a finance company. 3 more of the top 5 are finance related.
While this is a considerable amount of money, they fall into a very niche group. You will first need a suitable finance-based degree, and be prepared to face heavy competition. Overall, it’s best to find a graduate job that best suits your interests, qualifications and skills, rather than applying only for high-paid schemes.
*Please note that the information in this article is true as of January 2023.