The latest official data on graduate earnings in England shows that women with postgraduate degrees earn less on average than men with only bachelor’s degrees. Male graduates are also experiencing faster salary growth than their female peers. The Department for Education’s graduate labour market statistics reveal that women with postgraduate degrees earn a median salary of £37,000, whereas men with first degrees earn an average of £38,500, and men with postgraduate degrees are paid £43,000. Despite this, England’s “graduate premium” in pay of approximately £10,000 more than non-graduates continues to hold up, particularly regarding postgraduates who earn £40,000 on average.
The statistics also illustrate ongoing difficulties for young graduates in the labour market, particularly women, since the global financial crisis in 2008. Although both men and women’s employment rates have increased, male graduates and the occupations they pursue have benefited more from the slow recovery in pay. Since 2016, the median pay for graduate men has risen by £1,500 more than for women, which has further contributed to the widening graduate gender pay gap.
Black graduates across all age groups are the lowest earners, with median earnings of £25,500 compared to white graduates’ median earnings of £35,000. Despite black graduates having employment rates similar to white and Asian graduates, very few are employed in “high skilled” occupations. The Office for Students, the higher education regulator for England, has been assigned the task of closing the gaps in outcomes between various groups during and after university.
Finally, the data shows that graduates attaining first-class degrees earn less than those with lower honours degrees such as 2:1s or 2:2s. One possible reason for this is that first-class degree holders are more likely to pursue lower-paid sectors such as academia or the civil service. Nevertheless, in the early stages of their careers, first-class graduates earn £27,000 annually compared to second-class honours graduates who earn £24,000. Non-graduates aged 30 and below have experienced a pay increase at a faster rate than graduates since 2017, despite fewer holding “high skilled” jobs.