As a graduate, how much will I earn?

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As a graduate, how much will I earn?

It's time to talk about cold, hard cash. Salary, remuneration, pay, call it what you will, the issue of money is an important part of everyone's graduate job hunt - even if nobody likes to talk about it.

Salaries, for most, are not the largest concern, especially when they are looking for their first job and to take their first step in the working world. The opinion is usually, any cash is better than no cash. There is nothing wrong with this and whatever you want to earn, everyone needs to start somewhere before they can start commanding the big bucks.

Indeed, salaries come in all sizes for graduates. Rumours circulate that those who pursue a career in Banking are almost instantly earning mega-bucks. This is true, but they pay for it by working long, long, long hours. Other rumours are that if you're looking for careers in more creative pursuits, money will be thin and hard to come by.

Both of these are true, but not always as black and white as that.

Whatever career you're looking to pursue, you know that salaries will vary. No graduate is expecting to start their career on £40,000 plus working in an advertising agency are they? We did some research earlier in the year looking at the salaries doled out to different professions. The results tended to back up the rumours circulating.

For example, from our research looking at job descriptions from the last five years, we saw that a graduate Civil Engineer would be offered a healthy salary of around £26,559, while a graduate working in Public Relations would earn on average £20,857. These are not surprising figures, with its roots in talent shortages, popularity of certain professions and overall financial viability of work.

Salary Secrecy

However, as I'm sure you've noticed, employers are very cagey about salaries. Most work and research on salaries, and that's including ours, must be taken with a pinch of salt. As you've been fastidiously working through your job hunt and sizing up different roles, you will have noticed that employers often avoid specifying what they are willing to pay, opting to describe the salary in euphemistic terms as competitive, negotiable or dependent on experience.

There are a few reasons for this. First of all, and probably most cynically is that they are looking to see what "value" you will bring to the company, before they opt to put a "price on you." They will look to see what work you will do, how it will benefit the company and how much they believe that is worth.

Another reason for using competitive instead of direct figures is that employers are looking for the "right" people. Everyone wants a nice, plump pay packet, but employers don't want graduates who are only there for the money. What they do want is graduates who are looking to work for the company and attracted to the role and organisation, rather than its remuneration. There's no shame in wanting to earn a bit more cash, but don't let it be your only motivation.

A smaller reason for not showing graduates the salary that they might be offered is to not upset the apple cart. Graduates joining the company on larger salaries than current employees will go a long way to causing disruption in the work force, especially when joining the organisation in a similar role or level of responsibility.

Further in your careers competitive and dependent on experience (DOE) can be used to measure how suited to the role you are and to tempt you from a current position with money-muscle.

For graduate job hunters, this isn't exactly helpful. How much can you expect to earn? While relatively subjective, independent research agency for university leavers, High Fliers Research, found that the average starting salary for graduates is £30,000. Quoted in their report "The Graduate Market in 2015", this figure is up £500 on the previous year and £1000 on the year before that.

But, like I said, all figures must be taken with a pinch of salt. With the High Fliers figure especially, as this figure is taken from the top 100 graduate employers in the UK, all of which tend to issue larger salaries. So please, don't expect to be earning £30k in your first role. The likelihood, is that your salary will be anything between £17-18,000 up to £23,000 if you're lucky.

Wide range of Wonga

This brings us on swimmingly onto another area of salaries that confuse graduates. Range salaries. You know the ones I mean, offering a salary of £18,000 to £25,000. This is an opportunity for employers to award salaries depending on experience. But from experience, these can be misleading.

Sorry guys to again be the bearer of bad news, but employers often tend to use ranges to tempt graduates with the possibility of what they could earn but offer towards the lower end of the scale. While I am not accusing employers of being dishonest with salary ranges the problem is that it will often take a spectacular type of graduate to be given the top end amount unless the graduate in question is in-demand.

When they could be accused of being at best misleading is using OTE as part of their salary offer. While not as common here at, elsewhere on the internet employers like to try and get away with telling you what your On Target Earnings will be. OTEs or "Earn up to £1 gazillion" are often widely inaccurate and highly unreachable. Yes, you can earn the astronomical figure in question, but only if you double the company's financial turnover singlehandedly. I'm not intentionally pissing on your parade here, just helping you manage your expectations.

Benefits Street

One way that employers try to supplement or subvert what they offer financially is offering benefits. They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, the most common including bonus structures. Often found in more sales and retail fields, targets and bonuses are the way that many people make the real money, especially is their base rate is particularly low. Sales or Recruitment roles, both popular fields for graduates, allow graduates to earn an often nominal salary, but receive nice and plump bonus contributions.

Other little sweeteners that many companies offer as part of their overall remuneration package include things like season ticket loans, for travel not the local football team, health insurance, which often have its own benefits like two for one cinema tickets, relocation bonus, share scheme, free gym memberships, discounted cafeteria food and so on. These are great, cheap lunches or discounted gym membership, who wouldn't want them, especially if it's exactly the type of thing you'd spend your money on anyway.

So what can you expect to earn?

Basing your career and your career decisions around what you can earn will never be the best way to move forward. It is important to make the decisions right first time around because if you take a job just because it pays well, you might have to take a pay cut when you want to do something more fulfilling later down the line. We all know what sectors and industries pay better, we all know what have prosperous and rewarding careers too. What you should be basing your career decisions on is striking the balance between how much you want to earn, what you are prepared to do to make that money and what sacrifices you are prepared to make to reap the financial rewards. Money should not decide your decisions and lead you down paths you don't want to go.