The annual study by Graduate Prospects polled 22,000 graduates who finished their studies between 2000 and 2010 about their experiences in the workplace.
It found that only half (53 per cent) were satisfied with what they earn, with more than three quarters (77 per cent) earning less than £30,000.
While salaries varied significantly by profession, solicitors were found to be the highest earners, averaging between £35,000 and £40,000. They were followed by scientists, engineers and software engineers (averaging between £25,000 and £30,000).
However, Mike Hill, chief executive of Graduate Prospects, said that even these sums were significantly lower than the salaries many students believed they would earn.
“Expectations of what working life will be like and what salary they’re likely to get can be quite different from the reality,” he said.
“It was recently reported that a sixth of this year’s university leavers expect to earn £100,000 or more by the age of 30.
“Our research shows the reality of today’s graduate jobs market – a quarter of graduates earn more than £30,000 up to 10 years after completing university and only 7 per cent receive in excess of £40,000.”
The survey also found that one in seven graduates claim to be working more than 50 hours a week, a figure that rises to one in five for those in London.