Medicine and economics graduates earn three times more than arts students
Graduates who studied medicine at university earn more than students of any other subject, according to research by the Nuffield Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Medical students were easily the highest earners ten years after graduation, earning an average of almost £50,000. Those who studied creative arts were found to have the lowest salaries on average, at £17,900 for men and £14,500 for women.
Academics at the Nuffield Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies studied the link between earnings, students' background, degree subject and university attended.
It used tax data and student loan records for 260,000 students up to ten years after graduation. The study followed the earnings of graduates who started university between 1998 and 2011.
It also found that graduates from richer backgrounds earn significantly more than poorer ones, even after completing the same degrees from the same universities.
Meanwhile there were some universities where the average graduate earnings were less than those of the average non-graduate ten years on.
After ten years, ten per cent of male graduates from the LSE, Oxford and Cambridge were found to be earning over £100,000 a year.
The LSE was the only university where the same could be said about female graduates as well.
While there was significant variation by subject, graduates were more likely to be in work than those who didn't go on the university and were higher earners.
Of those with earnings above £8,000 a year, average earnings for male graduates ten years after leaving higher education were £30,000, compared to £22,000 for non-graduates of the same age.
The equivalent figures for women were £27,000 and £18,000 respectively.
However these figures for non-graduates are higher than the average for creative arts graduates.
Although many students will choose their subject based on many factors other than salary expectations, the researchers suggested students should be aware of the correlation between subject and earnings.
Jack Britton, a research economist at the IFS and an author of the paper, said: “This work shows that the advantages of coming from a high-income family persist for graduates right into the labour market at age 30. While this finding doesn’t necessarily implicate either universities or firms, it is of crucial importance for policymakers trying to tackle social immobility.”
Anna Vignoles of the University of Cambridge, and another author of the paper, said: “The research illustrates strongly that for most graduates, higher education leads to much better earnings than those earned by non-graduates, although students need to realise that their subject choice is important in determining how much of an earnings advantage they will have.”
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