Career Advice For Me

Graduate median pay 2011-12 plus expected changes

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that investment banks offer the highest graduate starting salaries on the market, at a median of £38,250, according to the most recent edition of the biannual survey carried out by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

As you scan the AGR’s list of average sector starting salaries, bear in mind that AGR member companies tend to be large, blue-chip, multinational graduate employers that typically offer higher graduate salaries than might be on offer from smaller organisations. Nevertheless, the figures will give you some idea of how the career choices you make now are likely to affect your graduate starting salary.

Drawn from a survey published in January this year, these figures reflect starting pay in the 2011–12 recruitment season.
Median graduate starting salaries of AGR members

Investment bank or fund managers £38,250
Law firm £37,000
Banking or financial services £28,750
IT/telecommunications company £28,500
FMCG company £28,250
Consulting or business services firm £26,500
Accountancy or professional services firm £25,750
Engineering or industrial company £25,250
Energy, water or utility company £25,000
Transport or logistics company £25,000
Retail £24,000
Public sector £23,250
Construction company or consultancy £23,000

The median graduate starting salary in 2011–12 across all sectors covered by the survey was £26,000.

Bear in mind that there may be significant variations within sectors. For example, the starting salaries for trainee solicitors are likely to be much higher at City law firms than at law firms on the high street.
Expected salary changes in graduate professions

It’s useful to get a feel for whether salaries in a particular sector are heading up, down or flatlining. This tells you something about the state of recruitment in a particular area – if salaries are heading upwards, it suggests that employers have decided they need to boost pay in order to remain competitive and attract the graduate talent they need. It could suggest a shortage of skills in a particular area, or a need to adjust starting salaries after a stretch of time without an increase.

Here are the predicted salary changes from 2011–12 to 2012–13 by sector, drawn from the AGR survey.

Public sector +7.5%
Accountancy or professional services firm +5.8%
Construction company or consultancy +4.3%
Retail +4.2%
Investment bank or fund managers no change
Law firm no change
Consulting or business services firm no change
Banking or financial services no change
FMCG company no change
Energy, water or utility company no change
Transport or logistics company no change
IT/telecommunications company -0.9%
Engineering or industrial company -1.0%

It’s surprising to see salaries in the public sector on the rise at a time of austerity and funding cuts. The survey report quoted one representative of a public sector organisation who suggested that other employers might be attempting to align their salary offer with higher starting pay on offer elsewhere in the sector.

Generally speaking, employers increased salaries where they felt it was necessary to do so in order to remain competitive, but many felt happy with the talent they were recruiting and saw no need to raise pay.