There’s no denying it’s a tough time to be a graduate. In fact, it’s a phenomenally tough time. Not only was your final stint at university likely stricken with pings, lockdowns and lateral flows — but you’re also now entering a job market that’s been flooded with furloughs and redundancies over the past 18 months.
So, if you’re a graduate who’s entering the wild working world for the first time, you have our utmost sympathies.
But you also have our guidance. Because trust us; it’s not as bad as it initially may seem. No industry has been left untouched by the pandemic; but those grad jobs are out there, gents. Some are even still particularly well-paid. So, to help you along on your dreaded job hunt, we’ve analysed a list of the top ten highest paid industries for graduates, courtesy of a report conducted by High Fliers Research. So roll up those sleeves, get cracking on your CV and get ready to join the world of gainful, wonderful employment…
#1: Investment Banking
Average starting salary: £50,000
That investment banking is the highest paid grad industry in the UK will come as a surprise to nobody. It’s well known for being well paid; but in a somewhat fairytale-esque manner, the income itself (ironically) comes at a price. The hours are long and arduous, and the culture can be brutal.
The operative word, though, is ‘can’; investment banking can be tough, but more and more workplaces are pushing employee wellbeing to the forefront of their agenda; and if hard work and plenty of cash sounds like the lifestyle for you, then by all means go forth and apply. Investment banks that offer grad schemes include HSBC, ING and Nomura; Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs were also among those listed in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2020. You can expect to start off as an Analyst, before progressing up to an Associate level. Put in 10-15 years, and you should make Vice-President.
Average starting salary: £46,000
Everyone knows someone who’s a lawyer. Right? We’ve all got that friend who’s training at the bar, or another friend (or ten) who are in the process of qualifying as solicitors. There’s a reason for the proliferation of trainee lawyers who tend to make up the majority of dinner party guest lists: as well as being a uniquely fascinating career, law can be extremely well paid.
According to prolific graduate recruiter Milkround, law firms tend to keep their recruitment figures low — which means they can attract fewer people and correspondingly pay more. Trainee solicitor salaries in the City tend to average out at £35,800 — and some of the highest payers include Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Allen & Ovary. Start out as a trainee solicitor (other firms popular with graduates and thus featured on the aforementioned The Times 100 list include Slaughter and May and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer), and you should progress to lawyer in no time. It’s competitive, and the hours are long — they don’t pay you all that money for nothing — but we have faith in you.
Average starting salary: £45,000
Ah, consultancy. If you managed to attend any (virtual?) university job fairs in your Covid-ridden final year of university, you’ll have seen consultancy firms drawing graduates to their stalls like some form of bizarrely high-powered magnet. And the form that this magnet takes is good job progression, an interesting and varied workload and — you’ve guessed it — a suitably high starting salary.
The career progression involved in being a Management Consultant is detailed and lengthy; but it’s worth it, financially speaking. You can expect to start off as an Analyst, before progressing on to Junior level; and then Senior Consultant, Manager, Principal and — boom — Partner. Popular consultancy firms among graduates include Accenture and IBM.
#4: Oil & Energy
Average starting salary: £40,000
Have you ever thought about a career in oil? If you did an Engineering degree, you probably have; and now’s the time that all those who raised an incredulous eyebrow when you told them you wanted to be an engineer will have to eat their sceptical words.
There are any number of engineer-related roles in the Oil & Energy industry; but engineering is by no means the only background that can get you on that hefty oil payroll. You could join the team as a geochemist, or a hydrographic surveyor; a graduate petroleum engineer is likely to see the highest income possible at a graduate level, but nothing’s set in stone. Popular oil and gas companies among graduates (according to that ever-trusty Times 100 list) include Shell, BP and ExxonMobil. Time to put that engineering degree to good use.
Average starting salary: £36,800
Have you ever pictured yourself working at Aldi? Well, if you want to rake in one of the top five highest-paying graduate jobs in the UK: start applying. The retailer offers one of the highest published graduate starting salaries for 2021, at £44,000; and after twelve months of training as a Graduate Sales Manager (the typical entry-level position), you can move swiftly on to Area Manager.
Of course, Aldi isn’t the only retailer offering sturdy salaries to graduates. Lidl is another popular choice (where you have the option of a sales, logistics or buying path after two years’ worth of training); as are Marks & Spencer and Tesco.
#6: Banking & Finance
Average starting salary: £32,500
As you’ll doubtless be aware, there are any number of jobs you could zero in on, when it comes to banking and finance. The highest paid graduate job in banking is likely to be an Actuary — Milkround points out that actuaries tend to be paid more, simply because there aren’t many actuaries going — but you could also join the team as an Analyst, or any number of any other highly-sought after roles.
The graduates who came before you have enthused about Barclays, Natwest, Lloyds and the Bank of England as banks that offer the best opportunities for graduates.
Average starting salary: £32,500
As a (more) creative industry, you may be amazed to see media listed in this selection of competitive, corporate jobs. Creative industries tend to have a reputation as historically low-paying (how often have you considered a particularly artistic career path, before dismissing it because ‘there’s no money in it’?); but if you know where to look, media can offer some surprisingly high graduate starting salaries.
You’ll need to target the big dogs, of course; they’ve got the money. BBC and Sky are both popular choices among graduates, as is Channel 4. When it comes to the job in question, that wholly depends on your skillset. Will you be on camera, or off? Running the show behind the scenes, preparing hefty strategic communications plans or addressing the nation directly? That’s your call.
#8: Consumer Goods
Average starting salary: £32,000
You’d be placing must-haves, essentials and vital life components into the hands of those who need them. In short, you’d be making people’s lives better, easier and richer; and who wouldn’t want to do that?
When it comes to securing a grad job in consumer goods, there are any number of companies who are practically chomping at the bit to find highly skilled, capable graduates. Procter & Gamble, for one. Unilever, for another. L’Oréal, for a third. Whether you head into Marketing as an Assistant Brand Manager, or whether you opt to pursue Sales — or any number of other departments — you’ll be striding, best foot forward, into a well-paid industry.
Average starting salary: £32,000
“I work in tech,” is a sentence many of us hear spoken at barbecues, dinner parties or weddings, in response to the socially appropriate “What do you do?”; but does anyone actually, truly, know what it means? What does someone who “works in tech” do, when they sit down at their desk and turn on their computer? How does their day pan out?
Well, for one thing, you could be a Software Developer. Here, you’d start out as a Junior Developer before moving on to Senior and then Lead Developer, before going forth into Management. Sound appealing? Well, look to companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google or Microsoft; they’ve all got that Times 100 stamp of approval.
#10: Accounting & Professional Services
Average starting salary: £30,600
Ok. We’re all thinking it, so we’ll be the ones to say it. ‘Accountant’ doesn’t have that sexy ring to it that, say, ‘barrister’ or ‘investment banker’ can conjure up. But if you don’t want to be eating baked beans out of a can when you should be living that adult life (it’s all a myth, but go with us), you may want to consider accounting and professional services as a well-paid graduate career path.
You’ll have to train, of course; but if you’re looking for the optimal graduate training program in the arena of accounting and professional services, look no further than the globally acknowledged ‘Big Four’: PwC (Price Waterhouse Cooper), EY (Ernst & Young), Deloitte and KPMG. And if the idea of applying to one of the four top dogs is too intimidating, Grant Thornton also has the graduate seal of approval. Either way, we back you. Go forth and win that big paycheck.
Wondering how to get the job in the first place? Here’s how to nail the top 5 most common challenging interview questions…
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