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How much will you earn after your degree?

How much will you earn after your degree?

The BBC has used research data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies to publish an interactive salary checker based on degree subject and university in the UK. It shows how graduate earnings vary five years after leaving each institution and subject, relative to the average degree, whatever that is. And it shows data for men and women, thus highlighting the gender pay gap.

Most British people could guess that a degree in Sociology from Keele will earn its recipient less than a degree in Medicine from Cambridge. But the Keele sociologist might go on to develop an influential cultural theory that redefines the human condition whereas the Cambridge doctor might spend an unremarkable career handing out paracetamol and peering into ears. So it’s not all about earnings five years post-degree.

Having said that, the salaries in the study are weighted to reflect the ‘quality’ of the candidates based on their acceptance to their university. The assumption is that a Cambridge graduate is likely to be more motivated and ambitious than one from Exeter, and thus will manoeuvre his or herself in a position to command a higher salary. Or simply work harder. Or be lazy but benefit from the kudos of Cambridge in the job market. They don’t say.

Unsurprisingly, creative arts degrees earn their recipients a lot less than most other degrees, even if they are earned from elite establishments like the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Perhaps one or two of those arts graduates will make it to the big time and earn a pile of money, but it’s a lottery. The BBC’s list is more about finding out the safest academic route to a financially secure existence.

The IFS’s data are presented graphically on their own site and a report and summary can be downloaded from there too. The IFS page also shows data by university group, which might only be meaningful to UK nationals (Russell Group, Million Plus, University Alliance etc.)

This data also functions as something of a university league table, if we assume that the point of going to university is to boost your future earnings rather than to have a whale of a time, lead a fulfilling and varied sex life and learn interesting stuff.

It’s also quite fun to find out how to be as average as possible in your post-degree earnings. If you are female, you can achieve perfect mediocrity by studying sociology at the University of Liverpool. Males can stick firmly to the middle of the road by taking engineering at the University of Central Lancashire. Upon graduation they will have earned a degree from the statistically average university in that subject. Great for those who don’t want to rock the boat.

Play it safe or reach for the stars? This data can help university applicants decide just how average they want to be.

2021 Update: The Financial Impact of COVID on young people

The Money Team at have published an article on the financial impact of COVID-19 on young people. It lists the challenges they can expect to face following the COVID crisis, but adds that young people are showing resilience and optimism. Read their report here

Included is some advice for young people in dealing with any setbacks they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic:

  • Be proud of yourself. The past year or so hasn’t been easy – but you’ve made it through everything so far. It’s important to acknowledge that and be proud of yourself.
  • Recognise your achievements. Rather than focusing on what you’ve been unable to do, look at what you’ve managed to do despite any difficulties. For example, you might have spent more time with family or learnt to love walks again. Celebrating achievements, no matter how small, is a useful skill.
  • Prioritise your own wellbeing. It’s easy to forget about yourself when lots of stressful things are going on around you. But during difficult times it’s more important than ever to prioritise your wellbeing. All the things people have been saying to do during the pandemic – slow down, exercise, eat well, connect with friends and so on – are things you should always prioritise.
  • Have a plan (but be patient with setbacks). Going forwards, of course you should be thinking of your future and making plans. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t plan for every eventuality. Don’t get frustrated – you have a lot of time to achieve your goals.
  • Acknowledge the journey. The transition between childhood and adulthood isn’t a simple one. It probably won’t go as planned. But you’ll learn a lot, create new connections, establish a career and more.