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What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education?

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education?

June 20, 2023

Average salary statistics can be very misleading thanks to the disparity between the highest earners and the lowest earners. As this gap widens, the average salary statistics get skewed. 

It’s helpful to know the average salary in the country as it will help you to understand how you stack up. It can also help you to assess the value of a job offer, and see how it stacks up against the UK average, the average for those with your education level, and for those in your age bracket.

In this guide, we’re going to explore UK average salaries by industry, age and education level. By the end, you should have a good understanding of where you stand in the national average.

What is the average UK salary?

The most common measure for average salaries takes the mean figure. The mean is all salaries added together and then divided by the total number of salary figures included. According to the Office for National Statistics, the mean average salary across the UK in 2020 was £38,600 for full-time employees and £13,803 for part-time employees.

In England alone, the mean average salary was £39,452 for full-time workers and £13,845 for part-time workers.

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

What is the median average salary?

As mentioned above, this figure is skewed by the existence of very highly paid individuals who are the outliers. To account for this, we can look at the median salary, which is the middle point of all of the salaries if they were plotted on a graph. 

The median salary is often seen as a better measure of the average, as it accounts for the existence of very high individual salaries. According to the ONS, the median salary in the UK in 2020 was £31,461 for full-time employees and £11,234 for part-time employees.

Which is the highest paying industry?

If you are considering a career path or even a change of career later in life and you are highly motivated by money, then you’re going to want to be aware of which industries offer the highest rates of pay. According to the ONS, the following sectors offer the highest median full-time salaries:

  • Finance and insurance: £43,821
  • Electric, gas, steam and air conditioning: £42,450
  • Mining and quarry work: £42,386
  • IT and communications: £42,267
  • Professional, scientific and technical work: £37,484

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

What are the highest paying job titles?

If you’re looking for a specific job title that will lead to the highest possible salary, you should consider applying for roles in the following areas:

  • Chief executives and other senior official titles
  • Marketing and sales directors
  • Legal professionals
  • IT and communications directors
  • PR directors and senior advertising professionals
  • Financial managers and directors
  • Medical practitioners
  • Head teachers
  • Senior police officers
  • Train and tram drivers

These are the job titles that can command the highest salaries in the UK, but many of these are linked to high levels of training and education. So, what impact does your education level have on your earning potential? While some sectors will allow you to get started in an entry level role with no specialist training, others will require a university qualification or equivalent.

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

How does your education impact your earnings?

If you’re curious about how education impacts earnings, consider the following statistics from the Annual Population Survey:

  • Those with no qualifications earned around £300 a week on average
  • Those with GCSEs at A*-C earned around £380 per week
  • Those with A Levels earned around £430 per week
  • And those with a degree earned around £690 per week

According to this 2018 survey, those holding at least an undergraduate degree earned almost 130% more than those with no qualifications. And holding a postgraduate degree could increase your salary even further.

While higher education might be an expense, there are benefits to be seen when you increase your education level. Even an undergraduate degree or equivalent can set you on the right path for higher earnings.

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

How does your age bracket impact your earnings?

Those with more experience under their belts should earn more money, but we also tend to see a tapering off as individuals get older. Many workers hit a peak, after which their skills and experience may become less relevant, or they choose to take backseat roles, as they approach retirement age.

The average salary for age brackets as as follows:

  • 16-17 – £10,910 per year
  • 18-21 – £18,087 per year
  • 22-29 – £26,096 per year
  • 30-39 – £32,965 per year
  • 40-49 – £35,904 per year
  • 50-59 – £33,231 per year
  • 60+ – £28,854 per year

As you can see, professionals tend to hit their stride and maximise their earnings between the ages of 40-49, after which earnings begin to fall again. This could be down to a lot of reasons, including stepping down from more senior roles, or moving to part-time work.

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

What else impacts UK salaries?

There are a few factors that will influence how much you can earn in the UK. 

How does location impact salaries?

Your geographical location is often the biggest impact on how much you can earn. Below are the top ten highest paying local authorities in the UK:

  • City of London: £1,103.10
  • Tower Hamlets, London: £956.30
  • Copeland, Cumbria: £949.5
  • Knowsley, Merseyside: £909
  • Westminster, London: £838.40
  • Southwark, London: £806.70
  • Derby, Derbyshire: £779.10
  • Bracknell Forest, Berkshire: £770.60
  • Camden, London: £766.10
  • Hammersmith and Fulham, London: £763

These are median weekly salaries of employers operating in these areas. Salaries in London are higher because of something known as “London weighting”. This is an additional wage supplement intended to cover the additional cost of living in Inner and Outer London. It is designed to support workers to ensure they can afford to live close to their place of employment. 

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

Public or private sector?

Salaries are typically higher in the public sector than in the private sector. You’ll also enjoy additional perks such as a strong pension plan. In 2020, the median salary for someone working full-time in the private sector was £30,973. This is in contrast to public sector workers, who earned a median wage of £32,734.

Full time or part time?

It makes sense that full time workers make more money than part time workers for the hours they put in, but part time workers also typically earn a lower per-hour rate. In 2020, the median hourly rate for full time workers was £15,14 compared to just £10.39 for part-time workers. 

How has this changed in recent years?

You may have read that labour shortages are forcing some sectors to increase their salary offerings. The latest statistics that we have on annual salaries has been heavily impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. The furlough scheme meant that some workers were earning less than their usual rate.

From 2019 to 2020, there was an increase in hourly pay of 0.7% in real terms. But weekly pay for full-time employees decreased by 0.9%, simply because many people worked fewer hours.

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

Is the gender pay gap still an issue?

There is certainly still a gender pay gap at play, which is impacting earning potential for many women. Since women of child-bearing age will often be pushed into part time work, differences between full time and part time hourly wages will have a significant impact.

The good news is that the gender pay gap is actually decreasing every year.

There is close to zero gender pay gap for full-time employees under 40, but the gap jumps to 10% for older age groups.

There is a 15.5% gender pay gap across all employees, which is down 1.9% since 2019.

And there is a 9% gender pay gap for full-time employees, which is down by 1.6% since 2019.

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

How do I know if I’m being underpaid?

More transparency around salaries is making it easier for employees to negotiate a better deal – and to know when they are being exploited! If you suspect you might be underpaid for your work, you can use job listing websites to confirm starting salaries for similar roles in your field.

Remember that you need to take things like training and location into consideration. For example, if you live in Coventry and notice workers in London are being paid more for the same role, this doesn’t mean that you are necessarily owed a pay rise to match.

However, education is something that you should take into consideration. For example, imagine you started working with a company as an assistant with no formal qualifications, but you worked your way up to a manager role. 

Then, a university graduate enters the company at the same level but is paid more than you. While the company might try to justify this by saying that they have an undergraduate degree and you don’t, you can argue that you are still doing the same job. Your time with the company should also have significant value. In this case, it would be fair to say that you are being underpaid.

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

How can I use this information to negotiate a better salary?

When it comes to negotiating your salary, knowledge is power. When you’re armed with the right information, you can approach employers in the right way and state your case for higher pay.

As we now know, your age, education and location will have a big impact on your earning potential. Before you ask for a pay rise, you should always do your research to see what other professionals are earning in your area. Follow these simple steps for asking for a higher salary. You can do this in an existing role, or when you are negotiating the starting salary for a new role.

1. Choose your time well

If the company is struggling financially, your request for higher pay may be poorly timed. You should also schedule the chat around a change in your role. For example, if you’ve taken on more responsibility or been given a promotion. The exception is if you have been working for the company for a long time without a pay rise. If you suspect you’re being underpaid for your role, you should raise this with your employer.

2. Do your research

Look at what other professionals in your industry are being offered as a starting salary and then compare this to your own. You can also factor in things like your age, experience level, education, additional training, additional responsibilities and time with the company.

What is the Average UK Salary by Industry, Age and Education? CMD Recruitment

3. Prepare your approach

You need to clearly state your case to your employer in a polite and considered way. You don’t want this approach to appear like an attack or that you’re unhappy. You should simply stick to the facts, such as industry averages, and any additional responsibility you have taken on since starting your role.

4. Be flexible

They might not be able to offer you everything you want, but they might be willing to compromise by offering you a smaller pay rise with a promise of further reviews in the future. They could also offer other benefits, such as more paid time off, a company car, or flexible working hours.

5. Be prepared to walk away

If you are being underpaid, you need to have the confidence to walk away if your employer refuses to move. If you agree to stay in your role, you are accepting that you don’t think you should be paid more for your role. You don’t have to quit on the spot, but it’s a good idea to start looking at other roles and planning a move. If you line up another job offer with a higher starting salary, you can offer your existing employer an opportunity to counter this offer.

Closing thoughts

Talking about salaries might feel awkward, but this kind of transparency is the best way to ensure that everyone is paid fairly for their work. Thanks to job boards and salary information websites, it’s now easier than ever to check if you’re being paid above or below average for your role.

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