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Top ten university degrees that lead to higher salaries


Institute of Fiscal Studies reveals which subjects lead to better pay for early-career graduates

A study has revealed the top degree subjects that boost early career earnings the most for people in their late 20s.

Released on 16 August, the report on education inequalities by the Institute of Fiscal Studies said that medicine, economics and mathematics degrees had the highest impact on earnings when graduates reached the age of 29.

The impact of degrees on earning were not the same for men and women though.

For women, a degree in medicine boosted earnings by nearly 80 per cent, in economics by just over 65 per cent. Other top ten degrees boosted their impact by between around 35-45 per cent.

For men, economics boosted pay by around 40 per cent, and medicine and architecture by over 20 per cent.

“Most strikingly, on average women benefit financially from attending university irrespective of the course they study,” said the report authors Christine Farquharson, Sandra McNally and Imran Tahir.

“For men, the returns in some subjects, including creative arts and agriculture, are effectively zero or even negative.”

The top degrees for women for increased earnings are, in this order:

  1. Medicine
  2. Economics
  3. Maths
  4. Business
  5. Law
  6. Computing
  7. Engineering
  8. Pharmacology
  9. Physics
  10. Nursing

The top degrees for men for increased earnings are, in this order:

  1. Economics
  2. Medicine
  3. Architecture
  4. Business
  5. Law
  6. Computing
  7. Engineering
  8. Education
  9. Maths
  10. Physics

The report used data from a 2018 IFS study, which estimated the labour market returns to different degree subjects at 29, considering background characteristics such as prior attainment and socioeconomic status.

But even after accounting for such characteristics, the report said, there is also an effect on pay of where a person studies and what grade they get.

“The grades that graduates earn can be an important part of their future outcomes in the labour market as well,” the authors write. “Achieving higher grades has a much larger payoff at more selective institutions—suggesting that some of the highest-paying employers value both which university a graduate attended and how well they did there.”