The Complete University Guide

Starting salaries: What the future holds

Will these years of study lead to a job? Lula Boardman and Alix O'Neill look at pay and job prospects

With so many decisions facing prospective university students it is no wonder the thought of a job slips under their radar. Fresher's week is imminent and funding their degree is more pressing than future career concerns.

But three years go by in a flash. Before you can say "graduation ceremony", you will be thinking "job". Today's tables can help you. Gathered from students six months after leaving university, the figures show that your job prospects vary greatly depending on the degree you choose.

It should come as no surprise that vocational degrees give graduates the greatest employment opportunities. Medicine and dentistry have the highest rates of employment – 87 and 83 per cent of students respectively go straight into work and earn more than other graduates. Medics start on a salary of £30,492 while dentistry students can expect up to £28,030 a year.

It certainly pays to be a scientist. The statistics show that eight out of the highest 10 starting salaries go to graduates with science-related degrees. The other categories that do all right are graduates of economics and social work. The average starting salary for economics graduates is £24,466 and for social workers £22,560. Salaries for mathematics graduates are also firmly in the top 20.

It really does make sense to go into engineering, if you have the right A-levels because most engineering degrees lead to well-paid jobs. The aspiring chemical engineer can earn £25,136, and the civil engineer £22,392 in their first job. Engineering is better paid than computer science, widely regarded as a sensible option for those who are interested in technology.

In some subjects you will need to do a further degree before seeking employment, for example law, where further legal training is required, and chemistry, where many students go on to postgraduate study.

Brian Heap, author of Good Degree Courses, attributes the higher employment rates of science graduates to the fact that their courses are more likely to offer a sandwich structure, where they spend a year away from university on a work placement.

"There is an 80 to 90 per cent employment rate among students in sandwich courses," he says. "A lot of help is given to students on business studies and sciences degrees: such as how to write a good CV and how to give a good interview, and this accounts for their rates among these students."

Bottom of the employment table come sociology graduates, showing that this subject is not seen as preparing people for work. Only 30 per cent are employed in a graduate job six months after graduation on an average salary of £17,685.

But not all humanities students should be concerned. The statistics show that many courses are useful for employment, specifically languages. Those who leave university with a language fare significantly better than those without.

Many prospective students, uncertain of what to study opt for what they know, for example, history, geography or English. However, these subjects are often difficult to get in to and, when compared with more unusual courses such as Middle Eastern and African Studies, fare worse in terms of graduate employment and earnings.

Starting salaries for graduates in subjects such as East and South Asian Studies or town and country planning and landscape, are on average about £2,000 higher than graduates of more traditional arts and humanities degrees. Nearly 20 per cent more graduates in East and South Asian Studies are employed in graduate positions than those with a history degree.

And a less conventional degree will help you stand out from the crowd. Angela Phillips, convenor of the MA journalism course at Goldsmiths, says that a lot of students think that English is the right degree for journalism. "I don't think there is a correct degree. If you've spent three months researching a fascinating dissertation in anthropology you'll have a lot to talk about at interview. I am interested in people who are overflowing with enthusiasm."

While science and business degrees are best for graduate prospects, it's really how you use your time at university that matters. So, relax, enjoy the university experience and don't lose sight of the next step.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Trainee Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Trainee Sales Executive is re...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Cambridgeshire - £23,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Front-End Develo...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower