How your degree shapes your salary expectations

University students are now safely ensconced in their new halls of residence, Fresher’s week all but over, while 6th-form students are seriously thinking about whether they can afford university or not. Some recent research sheds light on the vast differences in lifetime salary of graduates from different fields. So what do you want? The money or the lifestyle? Or both?

Study Japanese

… and not Chinese? There’s potential for this one to change, but studying Japanese can bring you an average lifetime salary of over £36,000. That’s better than Law, apparently. Studying the language, culture and literature of Japan can put you in a significantly stronger position than you may have thought. Employers rank Japanese as one of the top 10 foreign languages to study.

Japan’s position as a major trading partner and business hub makes Japanese speakers incredibly valued by UK employers. Equally, any studies into South Asia can be of benefit. Studying the history, language and economies of India and the other South Asian economies can reap around £38,500 per year over your lifetime.

Go into engineering

I remember being impressed by Leicester University’s Engineering Building, but I’d have been more impressed with the salaries graduates tend to earn upon leaving. The average lifetime salary for a general engineering degree fetches around £39,000 a year, and the variety of careers available to engineering graduates beggars belief.

Chemical Engineers do well in the energy sector, earning slightly under £39,000 a year, while civil engineers may earn slightly less over their lifetime (£37,000), but are in high demand for their flexibility, knowledge and expertise.

Go into medicine, and slog it out

Junior doctors tend to start on low salaries, around £22k, with long hours and potentially many years of gruelling toil. An average lifetime salary of £40k starts to make up for the initial slog and the five-year degrees.

In fact, those studying medicine or dentistry earn the highest average lifetime salaries of all degree subjects, and they’re also most likely to be employed the quickest upon graduation.

So who else gets the jobs?

So, medics are paid the most over their lifetime, and they walk into a job the quickest, but who else finds it easiest to find work upon graduation?

Funnily enough, 90% of historical and philosophical studies graduates get a job within six months of finishing their degrees, which is a huge surprise. That beats engineers and architects hands-down. 95% of those studying to become a teacher find work or further education almost immediately, and 91% studying agriculture found work within 6 months.

So… if you’re looking at your career path and you’re trying to balance out your skills against your chances of being well-paid, easily employed – and happy, then in the long-term, medicine might be your best bet. In the short-term, study Japanese and farming, and you should be OK!

About the author

Gareth Cartman is a HR blogger who works with Ceridian UK, a leading payroll outsourcer with offices in Reading, Manchester and Glasgow.