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Degree results matter: Getting a First or 2:1 worth 300,000 over working life

Degree results matter: Getting a First or 2:1 worth &pound300,000 over working life

Graduates with a 2:1 or higher earn &pound8k p.a. more than those with a 2:2 or Third

Engineering, Law and Economics grads are sitting pretty, while Tourism, Art & Design and Sociology degree holders may struggle to pay off student loans

High salaries for Oil Riggers, Nuclear Energy Workers and Police Sergeants show that university isn’t always the best-paying option

According to analysis conducted by job search engine, graduates with a 2:2 or Third class degree should expect to earn on average almost &pound8,000 p.a. less than their peers entering the job market with a 2:1 or First, a potential deficit of &pound300,000 over their working lives.  While a few marks here or there on final exam may be the only difference, employers use degree results to screen CVs, meaning a lifetime of earning implications.

The research also shows a huge gulf in salaries between the best and worst paying degree subjects.  Civil Engineering graduates can ultimately expect to earn an average of &pound46,940, while employers looking for Hospitality & Tourism degrees pay only &pound18,996 on average.  Economics, Engineering and Law degrees top the list of high earners, closely followed by Maths & Computer Science, whereas Art & Design, Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies languish towards the bottom.

For school leavers who are put off university education entirely by rising debts and expected average tuition fees of over &pound8,000 per year from 2012, all may not be not lost.  Offshore Oil Platform jobs topped Adzuna’s analysis of the highest-paying jobs that don’t require a degree with an average of &pound76,155, followed by Nuclear Energy Workers at &pound42,945 and Police Sergeants at &pound39,033. analysed every single job advertisement posted in the last month on over 100 different UK job boards, a total of over 1M unique records, using the advanced search technology that powers its job search engine. Adzuna’s study is the first to look at a complete index of actual employer demand for degree subjects and grades in the marketplace.

Doug Monro, Co-Founder of Adzuna, commented “With over 2.5 million unemployed and rising, young people need to be smart about their choices to maximise their employment prospects and the return on their time and money.  Our study confirms that working hard to get a & lsquo;Damien’ or a & lsquo;Trevor’ pays, but also that dead-end degree subjects don’t help your financial prospects.  With increasing fees and debts, it’s not surprising that some potential Alan Sugars and Richard Bransons are by-passing university entirely.”’s comprehensive job search engine lists over 400,000 open job vacancies throughout the UK including 25,000 live opportunities for graduates.

Salary by Degree Result 

Degree Result

Slang Term

Average Salary

First class honours (1st)

Damien (Hirst)


Upper Second class honours (2:1)

Trevor (Nunn)


Lower Second class honours (2:2)

Desmond (Tutu)


Third class honours (3rd)

Douglas (Hurd)


Top 5 Degree Subjects By Pay 

Degree Type

Average Salary

Civil Engineering








Computer Science


Bottom 5 Degree Subjects By Pay 

Degree Type

Average Salary

Hospitality & Tourism


Art & Design






Media Studies


Best Paid Jobs Not Requiring A Degree 


Average Salary

Offshore Oil Platform Worker


Nuclear Energy Worker


Police Sergeant


Military Security Worker


Hazardous Waste Manager



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