10 highest paying degrees in the UK - 2021

Sean Campbell
Last Updated: 28 July 2021 • 6 min read

The plan is simple. Go to university, study hard, have a truckload of fun, get your degree, start working in a high paying job in the UK, be happy, get rich, and have even more fun, right? 

If only it were so simple...

There was a time when earning a degree, any degree, pretty much guaranteed you a great salary from the off. But times have changed. In the 1970s and 80s, only 10-20% of the UK population went on to higher education, but that figure is now closer to 50%.  

For many graduates, this means higher competition for jobs, stagnant starting salaries against rising living costs, and ultimately, more student debt for longer.

But this isn't the case for every degree. Choose the right one, and you'll end up in a high paying job, doing something you love from the moment you start working. 

Here we'll guide you through the 10 highest paying degrees in the UK.

Your graduate salary in context: Average & minimum UK salary

For reference, the National Minimum Wage for 21 to 24-year-olds is £8.20. For a worker contracted at 37.5 hours a week, working full time would be an annual salary of £15,990. The average overall annual income in the UK is just over £30,000. This, of course, takes into account all ages, all experience levels, and all educational backgrounds.  

But what about the highest paying jobs in the UK for freshers? Well, the data varies on this for a number of reasons, but the average starting salary is approximately £24,000 per year in the UK. Break it down, and that's £2,000 per month, just over £450 per week, or just over £90 per day. Not bad for starters. 

Earning this amount or above would be considered a good starting wage, allowing you to cover your living costs, have some fun in your free time, and if you've taken out a student loan, begin paying off that pesky debt. 

The top 10 degrees with the highest starting salaries in the UK

We've taken a look at the most recent data compiled by The Complete University Guide and picked out the highest paying degrees in the UK.

  1. Dentistry
  2. Medicine
  3. Veterinary Medicine
  4. Economics
  5. General Engineering
  6. Mathematics
  7. Physics & Astronomy
  8. Computer Science
  9. Business and Administration
  10. Architecture


Read on to discover our round-up of the top 10 best highest paying degrees in the UK.

1. Dentistry

Average starting salary: £38,000

If you're looking to get your teeth straight into work while taking a huge bite out of your student debt, study a degree in dentistry. See what we did there? Yeah… we'll stop now. 

Really though, dentistry is one of the highest paying UK degrees. As well as that, it's not an overly competitive job market. Over 90% of dentistry graduates in the UK find employment within 6 months of graduation.

2. Medicine

Average starting salary: £33,500

Not all medicine graduates earn huge amounts upon graduation. For example, a junior doctor makes a basic salary of approximately £23,000, but this increases considerably year on year.

However, once you begin to specialise in a specific area of Medicine, say, cardiology, psychiatrist or surgery, your chances for a high starting salary increase significantly to over £30,000.  

And it gets better in the future, too. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average UK based medical professional earns £69,463. That's more than double the UK average salary making Medicine take a top spot in the list of degrees with the highest paying degrees in the UK.

3. Veterinary Medicine

Average starting salary: £35,330

It takes a certain kind of person to study Veterinary Medicine -- someone who is deeply passionate about animals and doesn't mind getting a little messy from time to time.

The financial rewards are very real and very quick to arrive, as this field has some very high paying jobs. Newly qualified vets tend to earn around £35,000 while time and experience in the job could see you earning as much as £70,000.

4. Economics

Average starting salary: £29,700

Who would have thought that studying the production and distribution of wealth would result in, well, wealth? Just north of £29,700 per year is a fantastic starting salary.

Unsurprisingly, Economics graduates' prospects get better with time too. After 10 years of employment, an average salary is approximately £40,000, while around 10% of graduates earn over a huge £100,000 after the same time period.

The sky's the limit for Economics graduates.

5. General Engineering

Average starting salary: £29,000

It's pretty simple; engineers with degrees earn good money. A degree in General Engineering yields an average starting salary of £29,900. The overall average salary for this career is approximately £47,000, but some jobs offer as much as £75,000. 

While we're here, let's take a look at the other fields of study in engineering: The average starting salary for Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering is £28,000. Chemical Engineering graduates earn £30,000. Electrical & Electronic Engineering degrees fetch average starting salaries of £29,000, while Civil Engineering starting salaries are £27,700 on average. 

Need more good news? With an ever-increasing need for innovative technology and infrastructure, engineering will be one of the highest paying UK degrees, and it will continue to be in high demand.

6. Mathematics

Average starting salary: £28,000
It's fitting that mathematics is a part of our list which, let's face it, is all about numbers. A degree in Maths opens up a world of career choices in accounts, finance, investments, data science & analytics, and plenty more. Though this subject area has a lot of high paying degrees, the starting salaries for Mathematics graduates can vary a great deal depending on their profession. The average annual starting salary is a tidy £28,000.

7. Physics & Astronomy

Average starting salary: £28,000

Gaining insight into how the universe works is a challenging but rewarding field of study with some of the highest-paying jobs in the UK. In the first 10 years on the job, physicists' and astrophysicists' salaries tend to increase to between £35,000, and £45,000. Naturally, they'll take another hike after 20 years in the job, by which time you'll likely be earning over £50,000.

If you head down the academic path, get a PhD, and continue in post-doctoral research, your starting salary can be anywhere between £28,000 and £39,000. Senior researchers and university lecturers meanwhile, can earn up to £60,000 per year.

8. Computer Science

Average starting salary: £27,000

How can a list of high paying degrees be complete without computer science in this technological world?

We use computers to do so many essential tasks every day, everywhere. So, we need computer scientists to manage, innovate and improve this computer-driven world. Since the demand is so high, the salary is also high.

9. Business and Administration

Average starting salary: £25,000

Managers always make more money. By getting an MBA or a postgraduate degree in Business and Administration, you can more or less guarantee a high paying job after graduation. 

You might have a little competition as many students choose business degrees these days, but since business grads are needed in every industry out there, you will easily find your ideal high paying job in the UK.

10. Architecture

Average starting salary: £22,000

Architecture is a field with never-ending scope and high paying jobs. We always needed building and over structures built in the past, and we will always need them in the far future too!

After becoming a specialised architect, you can expect a hefty salary irrespective of where you are on the construction site supervising the building process or if you are in your 33rd-floor corner office planning the next skyscraper.

But what about the law? What about accounting??

You might be shocked not to see any of these famous subjects on the 'highest paying degrees' list. This isn't a mistake, don't worry.

The average starting salary for a trainee solicitor or entry-level accountants can be as low as £21,000.

"So should I rule out studying Accounting or Law?" 

Absolutely not. While the starting salaries aren't always great, they're enough to live quite comfortably off. And after a few years in these careers, your earnings begin to soar.

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