What are the main factors affecting graduate salaries in 2018?

In 2018, the average starting salary at leading graduate employers is predicted to remain at £30,000 according to High Fliers Research Limited. However, whether you actually earn this much depends on a variety of factors, including what you study and where you study it.

Read on to discover what these factors are and how they could affect the earning potential of your degree.


Your gender

The gender pay gap affects graduates as soon as they leave university. One year after graduation, men already earn an average of £1,500 (8%) more than women and five years later, the gap widens to £3,500 (14%). If you’re a female studying computer science, you could even find yourself earning 16% less than your male counterparts.

Things don’t improve as graduates rise through the ranks either. According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, while female graduates can expect to earn £250,000 more than non-graduates over their lifetime, male graduates are likely to earn an extra £270,000.

While the gender pay gap is a complex issue, these statistics could be partly explained by subject choice, as women are more likely to study subjects with lower earning potential such as the creative arts, nursing and psychology.


The subject you study

Figures from the Department of Education reveal that the average medical student earns a whopping £47,300 five years after completing their course. Economics graduates earn £40,000, whereas the average salary across all subjects is a more modest £25,700. Creative arts graduates earn an average of just £20, 200.

If you’re looking for a high starting salary, consider becoming an investment banker, as they make an average of £47,000 in their first year. Law firms also offer generous starting salaries of around £44,000. Alternatively, you could earn £35,000 by joining one of the graduate employment schemes run by major retailers, including Aldi.


Social background

Despite the government’s drive to recruit students from a wide variety of backgrounds, teenagers from affluent families are still much more likely to go to university than teens from poorer households.

By their early thirties, graduates from households with incomes over £50,000 also go on to earn about 20% more than their peers with lower incomes. Even if a poorer student and a wealthier student study the same subject at the same university, the wealthier student will earn about 10% more.


Choice of University

According to a study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, students who graduate from the 24 Russell Group universities are likely to earn twice as much as graduates from creative arts colleges.

Employees who went to the London School of Economics, Imperial College London or the University of Oxford earned an average salary of £40,000 five years after graduation. In contrast, graduates from several dance, drama and music colleges earned an average of just £15,000.



According to new data from Adzuna, electrical and electronic engineering, law, mechanical engineering and construction management degrees currently lead to the most direct job opportunities. There are approximately 15,000 vacancies waiting to be filled by graduates with electrical engineering qualifications!

Due to a national shortage, teachers are also in demand, a situation which has resulted in the government offering trainees generous bursaries and scholarships. Once you’re in post, you could earn up to £38,000.

However, the future’s not quite so rosy if you’re studying travel and tourism or history of art, as less than 100 jobs directly relate to these degrees.



In a recent report about the graduate job market in 2018, over a third of employers warned that graduates without any work experience at all aren’t likely to succeed in selection panels for the top employers’ graduate programmes.

As the tide of popular opinion turns against unpaid internships, it’s gradually becoming easier for graduates to gain the experience they need. Last year, the top graduate employers offered paid work experience to 12,849 graduates and three quarters of them also provided paid holiday internships for second year students. A further three fifths of employers offered 6-12 month placements to undergraduates.

With student debt predicted to rise above £50,000, it would be easy to base your course choice on its potential salary alone. However, it’s not quite that simple, as more and more companies are boosting their basic salary with benefits like free food, gyms, discounts, healthcare, pensions and other perks.

It’s also worth considering whether a high paying career will suit you. After all, even if you’re a wealthy male Oxbridge graduate, money becomes somewhat meaningless without a fulfilling job.

Anna Louise Whitehouse writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.