Graduate salaries span a startlingly wide range, with a fortunate handful earning more than £40,000 a year in their first jobs but a considerable number on less than £10,000, according to latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Out of nearly 50,000 who graduated in 2002, 135 reported that their full-time jobs were paying them more than £40,000 just six months after graduation.
At the other end of the scale, 2,245 respondents earned between £5,000 and £9,999, and 110 had salaries of less than £5,000, according to the figures.
Most employment classifications used in the survey covered a range of specific jobs, which explained how some categories were financially rewarding for some but poorly paid for others.
For example, in the business and finance associate professionals category, 20 graduates earned less than £9,999 and 20 earned more than £40,000. Hesa suggested the difference could be explained by the broad classification, which included those working as stockbrokers, and presumably earning a lot of money, and mortgage advisers who may have low basic pay and rely on commission.
Some categories, such as sales assistants, retail cashiers and elementary personal services (which covers jobs such as hospital porters), had the highest numbers in the sub-£10,000 bracket - 400 and 200, respectively.
The median salary was £16,000 for men and women, according to the data on destinations of leavers from higher education 2002-03 released this week by Hesa.
The biggest group of graduates - just over 19,000 - were on full-time salaries between £15,000 and £19,999, while almost as many (18,000) earned between £10,000 and £14,999.