How your degree subject, gender and family wealth could affect your future earnings

New research funded by the Nuffield Foundation has found graduates from wealthy families earn bigger salaries and have greater opportunities throughout their career, compared to those from lower income backgrounds.

After surveying 260,000 graduates from England, researchers from the Institution of Financial Studies, Havard University and the University of Cambridge found the wealthiest 20% earn about a third more than the other 80% ten years after graduation.

It seems having a readily accessible network of connections continues to be a significant factor in securing a top job. This is a major blow for the Government, having previously set out plans to stimulate social mobility in the UK. 

Although the research made these important revelations about social mobility in the UK, it was also looking more broadly into the relationship between attending university and future income – here are three key findings you need to take away from the report.

1. University is a sound investment

By the time they're in their early 30s, graduates earn an average of £8,000-£9,000 more per year than their non-graduate counterparts. Those with a degree are also much less likely to be out of work at this point in their career.

Many students accumulate tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of debt during their university years but according to the research this investment is justified.

2. The gender pay gap is real

The research highlighted a disparity in wages between men and women. Ten years after graduation females earned an average salary of £27,000 compared to £30,000 for males.

Even having studied the same subject, there is a clear gap in income between the sexes. Male medical graduates earn an average of £5,000 more than female medics after ten years. 

3. The significance of degree subject

There’s a huge difference in potential earnings depending on the subject you study. Degrees in medicine, economics and law tend to lead to higher wages. Ten years after graduating, a man who studied medicine is on average going to earn £21,000 more than a male creative arts graduate. 

Regardless of these figures, it appears those born into a wealthy family in Britain have a ‘passport to higher earnings’ no matter which subject they study. Even when students graduate with exactly the same degree, those from more affluent backgrounds earn an average of 10% more than graduates from middle to lower income families. 

Here at Bright Network we are committed to helping talented individuals achieve their potential regardless of background. Our free events and careers advice give all students the opportunity to meet leading employers, make connections and acquire the skills needed to submit successful applications. We are proud to have such a diverse network – 48% of our members are BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic), 68% attended state school, 14% received free school meals and 38% are the first generation in their family to attend university.