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Which Degrees Lead To The Highest Paid Jobs And Salaries?

14/04/2014 11:06 BST | Updated 15/09/2014 13:59 BST

Following the tuition fees hike, more and more students are no doubt factoring in graduate wages in deciding what course to study at university. So which degrees result in the highest paying jobs?

Go Think Big work experiencer Bethany Miall investigates and warns arts students - you will not find this happy reading.

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Cast your mind back, if you will, to those carefree days before the 2012 tuition fee rise, when graduates left university with a measly £26,100 of debt instead of the estimated £53,400 for current students. In those days, fresh-faced university applicants pricked up their ears and listened when teachers and parents told them ‘study a subject you enjoy!’ Sadly, for many current applicants ‘enjoyment’ doesn’t always have a lot to do with their choice of degree. Since tuition fees have reached an all-time high, it makes sense to investigate the most rewarding subjects - so which degrees lead to the highest salaries? There are lots of opinions floating around on this, but GoThinkBig has trawled through the hard data (with minimal hyperventilation at the sight of spreadsheets, we’re proud to say) so we can bring you the facts.

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Ok, so first a few important details. These numbers come from HESA, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which we now think should stand for Hardly Ever Simple Answer. HESA sends out surveys to UK graduates six months and three and a half years after graduation, and this is the information collected in 2012 from 2009 graduates. Got it? Great.

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Most of the subjects in the top 10 probably won’t surprise you much; it’s well known that doctors, dentists and vets earn a, ahem, comfortable salary. These subjects are also pretty self-explanatory, but what about categories like Subjects allied to Medicine and Social Studies? Subjects allied to Medicine covers everything that isn’t Medicine itself. It includes jobs in the Allied Health Professions, such as therapists, but also increasingly valued subjects like health studies. Social Studies is sometimes scoffed at, but these graduates have the last laugh when you see just how much they can earn; the most senior jobs in social work can earn well over £60,000.

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Another surprising result is the pretty low £25,000 architects earn. They train for a whopping seven years before qualifying (and here we were thinking we were pretty much fully trained with the houses we built on The Sims). If architecture is your thing, don’t fear – this report shows that as you get older, your pay packet gets fatter. Also, bear in mind you’re looking at the medians of all the salaries, so that architect who trained for six years but decided he had his heart set on working as a milkman will bring the median down. You might also notice law hasn’t even broken into the top 10, but again, that’s because starting salaries tend to be lower and increase with experience.

Of course, which uni you actually study at can be a factor too. The survey showed that graduates from Russell Group universities earn the highest salaries, with a mean of £27,500 compared to the next highest, the 1994 Group of unis at £26,500 (the 1994 Group officially disbanded in 2013 but its universities included Birkbeck, UEA, and the University of Leicester).

So there we have it, the top 10 highest earning degrees. As you can see, the list is very science and maths heavy. Even within education, science and maths teachers are most in demand. We've talked about the importance of STEM subjects before, particularly for girls - read up on what they are here. But what do you do if you’re no maths whizz? The simple answer to that brings us back to the start of this feature: do what you enjoy! There is little point forcing yourself to study a subject you loathe in the hope that years down the line you’ll be earning more than if you’d studied your favourite subject. It’ll be incredibly hard to motivate yourself to work, and if you hate the subject it’s pretty possible you’ll hate the job at the end of it too. If you’re happy to pursue a subject you dislike for lots of dosh, then fair enough. If not, revive that carefree spirit and study what you love.

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