Revealed: what your degree is truly worth

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The Independent Online

One of the great questions the educated classes ask themselves - how much are my qualifications worth? - can at last be answered. A report by Bradford University shows that a professional qualification, such as accountancy or law, adds infinitely more to a person's earnings than an academic one.

For women especially, a professional qualification far outweighs the salary benefits of a higher degree, or even a first degree, boosting earnings by 41 per cent compared to a woman with no qualifications. For men the salary bonus of professional qualifications is 35 per cent.

A degree is second in value, worth an extra 28 per cent in the pocket for men. The increase of 28 per cent is an average figure, with degrees from some institutions worth more than others. GCSEs are in third place, adding 21 per cent to the pay packet.

The data support the contention of the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, that qualifications are worth the debts acquired to earn them, but some may question whether the value of an ordinary university degree is worth the cost of student loans, with or without top-up fees.

One of the surprises of the report, by Professor Irena Grugulis of Bradford University and published in the British Journal of Industrial Relations, is that a higher degree adds only 8 per cent to the average income.

But the report contains bad news for those with one of the most widely held qualifications in Britain. The National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), says the report, is so poor it should be scrapped. Holding an NVQ adds nothing to the pay packet and is largely ignored by employers.