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Highest Paying Jobs for Graduates in the UK

by Charles Nwabueze
Reading Time: 6 minutes

One of the fallouts of the pandemic was the effect it had on the recruitment of graduates by top firms. As a result of the restrictions, Covid-19 ripped graduate recruitment like the Juggernaut ripped Deadpool in Deadpool 2 – if you have not seen the movie go see it! In early 2020 firms realized that despite their approach of investing large resources into technology in preparation for the future of recruitment there were still salient things in recruitment that face-to-face meetings were preferable. Whether it was careers fairs, insight days, internships, assessment centres or final interviews, everyone relied heavily on physical meetings. Some sectors had to put their recruitment cycle on hold – the legal sector.

However, now the government has removed the remaining domestic restrictions, masks are no longer required to be worn in most cases unless you have had a Covid infection. Most of the employment sector has resumed hiring again; it might not be as high as pre-Covid but it’s getting there. Consequently, in this article, we are interested in finding out which professions in the UK offer the highest starting salaries.

We will be drawing our inferences from the three reports that many graduate recruiters use to benchmark their salaries: High Fliers Research (HFR), the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) and GOV.UK.


According to ISE, the median graduate starting salary for law firms was £42,250 while HFR gives this figure as £46,500. The High Fliers Report also has the legal sector as the second highest paying for graduates while ISE has it as number one; we agree with the latter. You only need to look at the salaries for trainees at a law firm to understand why the legal sector is our number one paying industry in the UK. 

So What? How much does a trainee solicitor?

I’m glad you asked! 

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer pays their trainees 50,600 in their first year and £53,900 in the second year. £99,000 is given to the newly qualified solicitors. We are not yet done. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton offers £50,000 and £55,000 to their trainees in their first and second year respectively; you £140,000 when you qualify. Stay with us! Davis Polk & Wardwell London pays £57,500 and £62,500 in the first and second year of their training program, and £147,500 when the trainees qualify.  Latham & Watkins pays £50,000 and £55,000 in the first and second years respectively. Newly qualified solicitors receive a misery sum of $205,000. 

 Several other big firms pay at least £40,000 to their first-year trainees. The abovementioned law firms are not even the highest paying law firms! Are the counterparts of trainees, pupils, left behind?

Pupils’ Pay

The most generous pupillage awards (salaries) are available from commercial and chancery sets, where they are usually between £40,000 and £75,000 for 12 months. One Essex Court has a pupillage award of £75,000. Monckton Chambers has boosted pupil barrister pay from £65,000 to £70,000. Do bear in mind that if you are practising outside of London your pay will be smaller.

Investment banking

Investment banking is a special financial mechanism of banking operations related to the creation of capital for other companies, governments, and other entities. Essentially investment banking is about raising money. These investment banks are also consulting firms that provide advice on initial public offerings (IPOs), mergers, stock repurchases, and corporate refinancing. Investment banking not only raises money for its client it also rewards its participants well.

In investment banking, the starting position is that of an analyst and according to HFR the median graduate starting salary for investment bankers is £50,000.


Following Investment and banking is consulting. If you have been following our articles – by now – you will be familiar with the consulting sector. Consultancy which involves being engaged in the business of giving expert advice to people working in a professional or technical field offers graduates the opportunity to be called to give expert advice to other professionals. As a whole, graduate consultants are professionals who specialize in helping clients resolve their organizations’ most pressing problems, issues, or projects. 

The median graduate starting salary for consultants is £50,000. You should however bear in mind that there are various branches of consulting and all of them do not pay the same amount. The highest paying is management consulting.

Oil & Energy

This is an undersold sector in the UK that quite a few graduates are not aware of the vast potential it holds. Jobs come in all shapes and sizes and include rig welding, drilling crew, scaffolders, medics, drilling fluids engineers, control room managers, and caterers. Jobsite estimates that oil rig workers with sought-after skills can earn £50,000 to £100,000, and on average earn £75,000. This figure might be a bit optimistic so we will go with HFR which offers £40,000 as the average starting salary for graduates in this sector.


If you are interested in a career in retail, your responsibility primary revolves around the promoting and selling of products and services while increasing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. To be successful you may need to examine the entire customer journey, from window shopping to entering the store, and buying a product. The main responsibility of most retail roles is to ensure that shopping experiences are excellent, and buyers leave with a smile on their faces. There are a host of careers that one can engage in under retailing: cashier, sales associate, customer service representative, visual merchandiser, and so on. The average starting salary for some careers in this sector is £36,800.

Aldi and Lidl are different though as they are some of the highest paying retailers; they offer £44,000 and £37,000 respectively – both also offer you a car.

Banking & Finance

Banking & Finance is one of the fastest growing sectors not only in the UK but globally; a career in this sector means an exploration of the dynamic, fast-paced world of money, shares, credit and investments. Because banks and financial institutions are a critical cog of the financial ecosystem there will always be financial jobs for graduates. According to HFR, the median starting salary for a graduate in this sector is £32,500; this is similar to ISE’s estimate of £32,850.


Working in the media sector may afford you the opportunity of doing some of the most interesting work that one can find because you work in a field that revolves around managing mediums that pass along relevant information to those who want it. Media jobs include local news anchors, editors, Hollywood film directors, and everything in between. As a result, your salary will depend on the role you’re undertaking and your employer. The average starting salary is £32,500.

Consumer goods

The Consumer Goods industry is dynamic and diverse, and one that offers a wealth of career opportunities. This industry covers household items bought in the supermarket and pharmacy daily.  Additionally, they include plastic goods, stationery, consumer electronics, restaurant and pub foods, beverages, newspapers, magazines and books. Employers are some of the biggest brand names around the world, with products used and seen by consumers every single day.

A career in this industry is rewarding as an average starting salary has been estimated to be £32,000.


A career in technology offers graduates a career without boundaries. From engaging in a role as a data scientist to a software developer to a web developer to a product designer to a project manager to an app developer to a sales engineer, the range of job roles and opportunities in the tech ecosystem is huge. In the UK, on average, graduates had a starting salary of £32,000 in this sector.

Accounting & professional services 

A career in the accounting & professional services sector offers strong earning potential to its participants. It also offers a vast range of roles: certified public accountant, auditor, forensic accountant, management accountant, cost accountant, project accountant, government accountant, and so on. Accountants play a valuable part in our financial ecosystem as they do most of the work that is needed to keep companies’ finances on track

The starting salary for graduates in this sector is a respectable £30,600. If you want a career here, be aware of the stress level. According to a study, 90% of people who work in accountancy have been stressed out by work, with 43% having to take time off as a result of stress. This makes accountancy one of the most stressful industries to work in.

Engineering & Industrial

While HFR has estimated that £28,000 is the average salary for graduates in this sector, a graduate’s salary can be positively or negatively affected dependent on factors such as specialism, employer, location (in or outside London) and qualifications. For example, graduates with a chemical engineering degree earn an average of £30,000. 

In conclusion, if the salary plays a part in the career you want to embark on this article would have been of use. The other careers which also pay well – not higher than the ones above – include careers in the armed forces and public sector. 

Now we are done here why not have a look at our other related articles on Highest Paying Jobs in the UK and Highest Paying Graduate Schemes in the UK?

Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)
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