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Going to university causes unrealistic salary expectations

More than a quarter (28%) of graduates admitted that the thought of being out-earned by their contemporaries causes them anxiety, compared to just 16% of non-graduates, according to the survey conducted by alternative account provider

18-24 year-olds are the most likely to experience salary-related competitiveness, with 40% (double the national average of 20%) revealing they’d feel anxious if they knew their peers out-earned them.  Londoners are the most likely to measure their earnings against those of their peers, with over two-thirds (37%) saying that what other people earn influences their own sense of achievement.

General Dissatisfaction

People who went to university are also less likely overall to be happy with their current salary than non-graduates which may suggest that a university degree can promote a false sense of earning capability. Nearly two-fifths (39%) of graduates say that they are earning less than they once expected they would, compared to a third of non-graduates. However, of those who reveal they are making more than they anticipated, a slightly higher percentage are graduates. Nearly one in 10 (8.8%) graduates exceed their earnings expectations, compared to 6.6% of non-graduates.

Unrealistic Expectations?

Salary anxiety among graduates may be driven by unmet ambitions, as over half (52%) say that their education informed their earning expectations. The same is true for only 21% of people who didn’t attend university. A further third (35%) of graduates say work qualifications are a factor, compared to a quarter of non-graduates.

Measures of Success

A third of graduates (38%) looked at the salaries advertised for jobs similar to their own to determine whether they earn what they think they should, compared to a quarter of non-graduates. A further third (35%) admit the money their peers make influenced this opinion, again contrasting with just a quarter of non-graduates. One in five (20%), meanwhile, point to the lifestyle of their peers as a measure of their own financial progress, which is slightly higher than  17% of non-graduates.

University Still Worthwhile

Regardless of whether they earn what they hoped they would or not, two-thirds (67%) of former students say going to university was worthwhile.

Spokesman for thinkmoney Ian Williams says, “With more than a third (38%) of survey respondents revealing they did go to university, it’s surprising how many of these graduates think they’re now earning less than they should after taking the popular route through higher education. However, it’s clear former students value their degree or other qualifications highly, whether or not their salary is what they hoped for.”


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