The plan is simple. Go to university, study hard, have a truckload of fun, get your degree, start working, be happy, get rich, and have even more fun, right?
If only it were so simple…
There was a time when earning a degree, any degree, pretty much guaranteed you a great salary from the off. But times have changed. In the 1970s and 80s, only 10–20% of the UK population went on to higher education, but that figure is now closer to 50%.
For many graduates, this means higher competition for jobs, stagnant starting salaries against rising living costs, and ultimately, more student debt for longer.
But this isn’t the case for every degree. Choose the right one, and you’ll be earning a great salary for doing something you love from the moment you start working.
Here we’ll guide you through the 7 degrees with the highest starting salaries in the UK.
Your graduate salary in context: Average & minimum UK salary
For reference, the National Minimum Wage for 21 to 24-year-olds is £8.20. For a worker contracted at 37.5 hours a week, working full time that would be annual salary of £15,990. The average overall annual income in the UK is just over £30,000. This of course takes into account all ages, all experience levels, and all educational backgrounds.
But what about graduate starting salaries? Well, the data varies on this for a number of reasons, but the average graduate starting salary is approximately £24,000 per year in the UK. Break it down, and that’s £2,000 per month, just over £450 per week, or just over £90 per day. Not bad for starters.
Earning this amount or above would be considered a good starting wage, allowing you to cover your living costs, have some fun in your free time, and if you’ve taken out a student loan, begin paying off that pesky debt.
The top 7 degrees with the highest starting salaries in the UK
We’ve taken a look at the most recent data compiled by The Complete University Guide, and picked out the top degrees for fast earnings in the UK.
Average starting salary: £31,340
If you’re looking to get your teeth straight into work while taking a huge bite out of your student debt, study a degree in dentistry. See what we did there? Yeah… we’ll stop now.
Really though, graduate dentists begin earning a high salary right off the bat — the highest graduate starting salary of them all. As well as that, it’s not an overly competitive job market. Over 90% of dentistry graduates in the UK find employment within 6 months of graduation.
Average starting salary: £30,636
Not all medicine graduates earn huge amounts upon graduation. A junior doctor, for example, earns a basic salary of approximately £23,000, but this increases considerably year on year.
However, once you begin to specialise in a specific area of medicine, say, cardiology, psychiatrist or surgery, your chances for a high starting salary increase significantly to just over £30,000.
And it gets better in the future, too. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average UK based medical professional earns £69,463. That’s more than double the UK average salary!
3. General Engineering
Average starting salary: £28,649
It’s pretty simple, engineers with degrees earn good money. A degree in General Engineering yields an average starting salary of £28,649. The overall average salary for this career is approximately £47,000, but some jobs offer as much as £75,000.
While we’re here, let’s take a look at the other fields of study in engineering: The average starting salary for Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering is £26,737. Chemical Engineering graduates earn £27,734. Electrical & Electronic Engineering degrees fetch average starting salaries of £27,659, while Civil Engineering starting salaries are £26,729 on average.
Need more good news? With an ever increasing need for innovative technology and infrastructure, engineering graduates will continue to be in high demand.
Average starting salary: £28,287
Who would have thought that studying the production and distribution of wealth would result in, well, wealth? Just north of £28,000 per year is a fantastic starting salary.
Unsurprisingly, Economics graduates’ prospects get better with time too. After 10 years in employment, an average salary is approximately £40,000, while around 10% of graduates earn over a huge £100,000 after the same time period.
The sky’s the limit for Economics graduates.
5. Veterinary Medicine
Average starting salary: £28,277
It takes a certain kind of person to study Veterinary Medicine — someone who is deeply passionate about animals and doesn’t mind getting a little messy from time to time.
The financial rewards are very real and very quick to arrive though. Newly qualified vets tend to earn around between £28,000 and £30,000, while time and experience in the job could see you earning as much as £70,000.
6. Physics & Astronomy
Average starting salary: £26,731
Gaining insight into how the universe works is a challenging but rewarding field of study. In the first 10 years on the job, physicists’ and astrophysicists’ salaries tend to increase to between £35,000, and £45,000. Naturally, they’ll take another hike after 20 years in the job, by which time you’ll likely be earning over £50,000.
If you head down the academic path, get a PhD, and continue in post-doctoral research, your starting salary can be anywhere between £26,000 and £39,000. Senior researchers and university lecturers meanwhile, can earn up to £60,000 per year.
Average starting salary: £26,415
It’s fitting that the last place on our list which, let’s face it, is all about numbers, is reserved for Mathematics. A degree in Maths opens up a world of career choices in accounts, finance, investments, data science & analytics, and plenty more. While the starting salaries for Mathematics graduates vary a great deal depending on their profession, the average annual starting salary is a tidy £26,415.
But what about law? What about accounting?? What about computer science???
You might be shocked not to see any of these on the above list. This isn’t a mistake, don’t worry. The average starting salary for a trainee solicitor, entry level accountants or beginner computer scientist can be as low as £21,000.
“So should I rule out studying Accounting, Law or Computer Science?” Absolutely not. While the starting salaries aren’t always great, they’re enough to live quite comfortably off. And after a few years in these careers, your earnings begin to soar.