Highest and lowest graduate earners by degree subject in the UK

Graduates of medicine and economics in the UK earn significantly higher salaries 10 years on, while creative arts graduates are the lowest earners.
April 13 2016

Graduates in the UK with degrees in medicine and economics earn significantly higher salaries 10 years on than graduates of other subjects.

After correcting for differences arising from a disparity in entry standards for different subjects, medical graduates earn about £14,000 more at median salary levels than both engineering and technology graduates and law graduates.


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The discrepancy is even starker when compared with the lowest earners: graduates of creative arts. Male economics graduates can expect to earn a premium of £14,000 over their creative peers, and female economics graduates earn a staggering £20,000 more at the median level.

The top 10 per cent of the highest-paid male medicine graduates earn more than £84,700 a year, and for women that figure is £68,800. For creative arts graduates, the highest earners are paid upwards of £35,300 (for women) and £37,400 (for men).

The study, carried out by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), UCL Institute of Education (IoE), Harvard University and the University of Cambridge, used anonymised tax data and student loan records for UK domiciled students, comparing graduates with those who did not attend university.

Neil Shephard of Harvard, and an author of the paper, explained: “Earnings vary substantially with university, subject, gender and cohort.”

In addition to variation by subject, the research also revealed that graduates tend to earn more than non-graduates, but that socio-economic background affects the earnings of graduates of the same university and subject.

Anna Vignoles of the University of Cambridge, and another author of the paper, said: “The research illustrates strongly that for most graduates, higher education leads to much better earnings than those earned by non-graduates, although students need to realise that their subject choice is important in determining how much of an earnings advantage they will have.”

UK graduate earnings by degree subject (includes those without earnings)

 

Female

Male

 

Lowest-paid 20% earn less than

Median salary

Highest-paid 10% earn more than

Lowest-paid 20% earn less than

Median salary

Highest-paid 10% earn more than

Medicine

£23,700

£45,400

£68,800

£33,000

£55,300

£84,700

Economics

£20,300

£38,200

£93,900

£6,600

£42,000

£121,400

Engineering and technology

£1,200

£23,200

£48,300

£7,300

£31,200

£58,400

Law

£4,800

£26,200

£62,800

£3,500

£30,100

£79,500

Physical sciences

£6,000

£24,800

£46,500

£9,000

£29,800

£56,200

Education

£7,600

£24,400

£38,600

£9,700

£29,600

£41,800

Architecture

£5,400

£22,500

£42,600

£6,100

£28,600

£49,400

Subjects allied to medicine

£4,200

£22,100

£40,600

£7,100

£27,900

£49,100

Missing LEM

£1,400

£21,000

£46,400

£1,800

£27,100

£61,900

Maths and computer science

£3,300

£22,000

£53,300

£6,400

£26,800

£57,500

Business

£4,100

£22,000

£48,900

£6,900

£26,500

£58,600

History and philosophy

£2,600

£23,200

£50,000

£2,800

£26,500

£64,200

Social sciences

£4,400

£20,500

£40,900

£4,500

£26,200

£56,800

Biological sciences

£5,500

£23,800

£41,700

£4,000

£25,200

£46,500

Euro languages and literature

0

£26,400

£58,100

0

£25,000

£78,100

Linguistics and classics

£5,000

£23,200

£43,200

£3,900

£24,100

£52,900

Missing STEM

£3,600

£21,100

£46,100

£2,700

£23,200

£46,400

Missing other

£2,300

£19,200

£39,500

£3,500

£22,800

£44,400

Veterinary and agriculture

£2,700

£18,900

£39,400

£5,100

£21,400

£44,200

Mass communication

£3,400

£18,100

£38,400

£1,700

£19,300

£42,700

Creative arts

£300

£14,500

£35,300

£2,700

£17,900

£37,400

Note: Female and male 20th, 50th and 90th percentile earnings for the 1999 cohort in 2012-13.

Where identifying the degree subject of a graduate at a very small university would potentially identify them, the graduate has been included in one of the following categories, depending on the subject area in which their degree is located: Missing LEM, Missing STEM or Missing Other. LEM – Law Economics and Management. STEM – Science Technology Engineering Mathematics.

Source: IFS report executive summary


Resources: explore the rankings by subject

- Best universities for arts and humanities


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