Choosing the right degree can be a daunting task with thoughts of your potential future career running through your head.
In 2022 the then leadership hopeful, now Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, spoke of his aim to phase out ‘low value’ degrees that do not “improve earning potential”, with the Government basing a degree’s value solely on earnings.
With that in mind higher education experts Oxford Learning College wanted to uncover the UK degrees offering the best and worst earning potential.
Their analysis of a number of degrees across 20 popular sectors has uncovered which degrees offering the best and worst long-term earning prospects.
Using data from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and Indeed higher-education experts Oxford Learning College were able to determine which degrees offer the best and worst earning potential.
Medicine and dentistry were revealed as the best degrees to study for earning potential out of the 20 sectors studied, scoring 533.32 out of a possible 900 points in the index.
- Medicine and dentistry were shown to be the best degrees for earning potential out of the 20 sectors studied, scoring 533.32 out of 900 points with the best median starting salary of £34k and highest total graduate high-skilled employment rate of 98%.
- Veterinary sciences followed closely taking 2nd place with 521.63 points, followed by engineering and technology degrees in 3rd place with 430.75 points out of 900.
- Historical, philosophical and religious studies were revealed to be the least desirable degrees to study with a median entry level salary of £23k, scoring just 28 out of a possible 900 points.
- Law degrees are expected to grow the most over the next decade with 147,860 graduates in 2031/2032, a 155.77% increase from 2021/2022.
- Natural sciences degrees are predicted to have the biggest decrease in graduates in a decade with an estimated 6,365 graduates in 2032, a dramatic -37.38% decrease from 2021/2022 which is disheartening given the current climate crisis.
- Design, and creative and performing arts degrees have the lowest median starting salary of £20k.
The UK’s best and worst degrees for earning potential
The analysis looked at graduate and enrolment figures in 2021/ 2022, median graduates salaries, number of degree-related entry level jobs available, and the total graduate high-skilled employment rate for each sector.
Each datapoint was given a score that each sector was ranked against. All scores were then added to identify the top and bottom degree sectors to pick with a maximum 900 points available.
With 63,705 people enrolled and 19,625 graduates in 2021/2022, research shows that the median graduate salary for the sector is £34,000, the highest out of the 20 degree sectors analysed.
According to UCAS, subjects allied to medicine include anatomy, physiology, and pathology, pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy, complementary medicines, therapies, and wellbeing.
Veterinary sciences scored the second highest points landing 521.63 out of a possible 900 points, with an average median graduate salary of £31k and an estimated 5.19 degree-related entry level jobs per graduate which is 519 in 100, the highest jobs per graduate ratio of all 20 sectors analysed.
In third place is engineering and technology degrees scoring 430.75 points out of 900 for the sectors’ 81% total graduate high-skilled employment rate and estimated 2.32 degree-related entry level jobs per graduate, which comes to 58 in 25.
The degrees with the lowest earning potential
In addition to knowing which degrees provide the best earning potential in the future, the analysis also highlighted those that don’t.
In bottom position is historical, philosophical and religious studies degrees with 28.16 points out of a possible 900.
historical, philosophical and religious studies ranked second lowest for the number of degree-related entry level jobs available of 0.11, which is 1 in 9, and third lowest for the average total graduate high-skilled employment rate of just 68%. This highlights the importance of graduates also searching for roles that aren’t directly allied with their field in order to get a job.
Psychology degrees came in second place for the least desirable degree for potential earnings. With an average median graduate salary of £21.5k, psychology falls into the group of degrees offering low end salaries in joint 3rd place alongside Law for lowest average median graduate salary, scoring it just 39.76 points out of 900.
Biological and sport sciences took third place with just 41.12 out of 900 points. With the lowest estimated degree-related entry level jobs available per graduate each year in the field of 0.05, which equates to 1 in 20, most will struggle to land their dream job straight out of university.
So what can we expect in the future for these degrees? Oxford Learning College analysed the current and projected graduate numbers to find out.
They predict that law degrees will grow the most over the next decade with 147,860 graduates in 2031/2032, a 155.77% increase from 2021/2022.
On the other hand, natural sciences degrees are expected to experience the biggest decrease in a decade with an estimated 6,365 graduates in 2032, a dramatic -37.38% decrease from 2021/2022. This is disheartening given the current climate crisis we find ourselves in.
Touching on the findings Tilan O’Connell, Senior Student Advisor at Online Learning College said “The predicted increase in sectors like law, computing and business and management graduates in the next decade will no doubt be a result of the ripple effect from the pandemic and people wanting to take ownership of their own career and progression path.
However, with AI becoming more commonplace, in one case being the elected lawyer in a US trial, we can expect outside factors to impact these rankings”
O’Connell continued, “It’s surprising to see that graduate numbers for natural and biological science degrees are set to decrease so rapidly over the next 10 years, especially given the incredible breakthroughs the medical sector has provided over the past couple of years.
It’s worth considering a career in medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences as the study shows that these degrees provide the best earning potential for graduates.”