Top 10 degree subjects for graduate starting salaries

When we asked students why they wanted to go to university, improving employment prospects came out as a top factor. And while making lots of cash isn't the only mark of a successful career, it's nice to think you could emerge from uni with the potential to become a top earner. One of these subjects may help you get off to a good start...

Here are the top subject areas for graduate starting salaries. We're looking at the money, on average, earned by full-time students six months after graduating with a degree in that discipline (according to the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education survey) - so bear in mind that it's a only a snapshot.

1. Dentistry: £30,408

Dentistry qualifications are a savvy choice if a solid and stable career is top of your priority list. It's one of the very few degrees out there able to rival medicine for the strongest employability prospects and starting salary around. The recession appears to have barely touched early career options available for new dentists – 95% of dental graduates were working as dentists after six months.

You could become a: general dental practitioner, hospital dentist
Alternative options: community clinical dental officer, corporate practice dentist, oral medical specialist

2. Chemical, process and energy engineering: £29,275

With a shortage of chemical engineers in the UK, chemical engineering grads are in demand and starting salaries are good. This degree actually suffered a little as a result of the recession but the jobs market is getting back to normal for chemical engineers – which means pretty good. This is one of the unusual degrees where salaries are actually better outside London – and although recent cutbacks in the oil industry might bring salaries in Scotland down a little, these degrees are in enough demand that chemical engineers remain sought-after.

Most graduates take a longer course that leads to an MEng – which is what you need to take if you want to be a Chartered Engineer.

You could become a: process development engineer, industrial manager, business analyst

3. Medicine: £28,525

Medical degrees have, and will no doubt continue to have, some of the best employment outcomes of any degree in terms of salary expectations and long-term prospects. Unsurprisingly, most graduates go into jobs within the health sector. If you're taking a shorter pre-clinical course, you'll need to continue on to further medical training to complete an accredited qualification, which explains why a high proportion of medicine grads are 'in further study' six months after graduation, and why the starting salaries are not right at the top of the tree.

You could become a: general practice doctor, hospital doctor
Alternative options: clinical molecular geneticist, health service manager

4. Marine technology: £27,742

A specialist degree with a range of outcomes, marine technology complements our national strength in offshore and naval industries. Only a couple of hundred people are awarded marine technology degrees every year and those who get them tend to be in well-rewarded jobs in engineering, maritime construction and water transport.

You could become a: maritime engineer, passenger ship officer, design engineer

5. Operational research (maths): £26,099

With advanced analytical and problem-solving skills, operational research grads are attractive to a wide range of employers across multiple sectors including business and manufacturing. Typically, a large proportion of 2013 graduates are working in finance, but some pursue careers in management consultancy or IT.

You could become a: financial analyst, IT analyst, accountant

6. Mechanical engineering: £25,604

Engineering was hit hard by the recession as several key industries, particularly construction, suffered. But with recovery has come a realisation from industry that we are short of some crucial skills – and engineering is high on the list of subject areas that are in demand. The best starting salaries for mechanical engineers from 2012/13 were not always found in London – the engineering hotspots of the Midlands had a higher average starting salary – and there are a range of jobs available for mechanical engineering graduates, particularly in vehicle manufacture, aviation, consultancy, the gas industry and a host of other areas of manufacturing.

You could become a: mechanical engineer, design engineer, project manager
Alternative options: armed forces officer, quality control specialist, IT analyst

7. Economics: £24,927

Over half of 2013’s economics grads are now business and financial professionals, but some go into areas including public sector management, retail and the growing field of marketing. It's also quite common for economics graduates to go into jobs such as accountancy which require you to take more training and gain professional qualifications.

You could become a: business analyst, accountant, investment banker, economist (obviously!)
Alternative options: insurance adviser, market researcher, business development manager

8. Aerospace engineer: £24,884

A specialist degree with a little over a thousand graduates a year, aerospace engineering graduates are in demand for their specialist skills and so are targeted by industries dealing with air and space vehicles – transportation and defence especially. Graduates from the discipline are flexible and are found in many other industries, but the demand and rewards from aerospace and defence mean that most stay in roles directly related to those industries.

You could become a: aircraft engineer, electronic engineer, engineering researcher
Alternative options: armed forces officer, flight engineer, investment advisor

9. Veterinary medicine and dentistry: £24,547

Most graduates get jobs – as vets – on graduation and starting salaries are much higher than average. Not surprisingly, they work in mainly rural areas, although there are some jobs in practises in urban areas – even in London.

You could become a: veterinary surgeon
Alternative options: veterinary researcher

10. Statistics: £24,446

We’re entering the era of Big Data, where the huge masses of social, economic and personal data that have been enabled by the rise of online information gathering techniques are waiting to be analysed by statistically-literate graduates. That, coupled with a general concern that the population at large isn’t quite as comfortable with stats as they could be, means that many statistics graduates are finding themselves in demand across a range of industries. The finance industry – banking, insurance and accountancy especially – naturally attracts its fair share of statistics graduates, but other industries, such as education, Government, health and marketing, all have an interest in recruiting in-demand statisticians.

You could become a: financial analyst, actuary, management consultant, statistician
Alternative options: market researcher, health researcher, labour market analyst, software developer Remember, taking a degree in a particular subject won't guarantee you a job or top salary. Whatever you want to study, it's worth making the extra effort when it comes to work experience and extra-curricular activities while you're at uni to help you get ahead in the jobs market.


Notes: DLHE survey salary data is based on stats from 2012/13. 

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