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What is the average graduate starting salary?

Information on graduate salaries is available in various surveys and reports but figures tend to be different, as they are arrived at in different ways.

1.According to latest figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the average salary for full-time first degree graduates from 2008 whose destinations were known and who were in full-time employment in the UK six months after graduating was £19,677. This figure covers graduates in all roles across the UK economy, including those occupied by graduates but which might be considered 'non-graduate', and comes from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, which is the annual survey which explores graduates’ destinations six months after graduation. DLHE covers all graduates from UK higher education.

2. Figures derived from the latest 2007/08 issue of Prospects Directory revealed that the average starting salary offered to 2008 graduates is £24,048 and the median salary* is £23,500. Prospects Directory is an annual graduate recruiters' directory published by Graduate Prospects and features thousands of jobs and hundreds of employers, and the salaries are therefore derived from job advertisements. The latest 2007/08 issue is aimed at 2008 graduates. The salaries offered ranged from £14,732 to £39,000.

3. The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) produced their most recent Graduate Recruitment survey in summer 2009, based on responses from 226 employers, which looks at the salaries recruiters are paying their new graduate employees. The median salary for graduates in 2009 is £25,000. This data comes from salaries paid to new employees. The findings are summarised below.

Graduate starting salaries at AGR employers in 2009
Salary range% of employers
£24,001 - £27,00026.3%
More than £36,00110.3%
Source: The AGR Graduate Recruitment Survey 2009: Summer Review

It is important to note that the salary figures for the second two sources are from mainly large companies and organisations and the vacancies are aimed specifically at graduates. They are also often for formal graduate training schemes, and largely cover those sectors in which large organizations and graduate training schemes are more common. In addition, many of the vacancies are in London, where salaries offered tend to be higher than in other UK regions. These surveys are particularly useful for those graduates looking for this type of role.

As a result, the average salary figures from these sources are likely to be higher than the average graduate starting salaries sourced from student surveys (e.g. the figure reported by HESA), as there is a bias towards larger firms and specific graduate jobs.

A substantial number of graduates obtain posts which are not specifically targeted at degree holders, or at smaller organisations or not on formal graduate training schemes, or outside London and the south-east, and the salaries offered are likely to be closer to the figures quoted by HESA.

* The median is the middle of a set of values.

Vacancies by sectors

According to the AGR Graduate Recruitment Survey 2009 of 226 employers, the following sectors reported the following vacancies:

Vacancies at AGR employers by sector in 2009
Sector% of total vacancies
Accountancy or professional services firm24.4
Banking or financial services13.6
Law Firm9.4
Public sector8.6
Engineering or industrial7.5
Transport or logistics7.0
Investment banks or fund managers5.5
Consulting or business services4.8
Construction company or consultancy4.2
Energy, water or utilities2.0
FMCG 1.7
Source AGR Graduate Recruitment Survey 2009 Summer Review Table 1.4

Copyright © 2002-2017 HECSU | Content last updated: August 2009

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