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Revealed: The UK’s highest paying careers

Do you want the fastest route to a six-figure salary? Then pursue a career in finance or public relations.


Financial managers and PR directors are the two career paths likely to reach a salary of £100,000 or more the quickest – at 18 years – according to a fascinating new study which reveals the most lucrative career paths when training and education costs as well as salaries are considered.


Analysis of ONS and recruitment industry data by Standout CV reveals which roles earn workers the most in the first 20 years of service. Key findings include:

  • Over 20 years, pilots earn the most of any career in the UK (£1,132,500), when accounting for debt and salaries. 


  • CEOs have the second highest average salary (£85,239), but accumulate less in 20 years than pilots, financial managers, PR directors, and senior police officers.

  • Whilst senior police officers are the 10th highest paid in the ONS analysis, with an average salary of £56,665, they earn the most in the first 10 years of their career due to a lack of training debt.

  • If you were to start a new career, you'd make and exceed the UK average full-time salary (£31,461) the quickest as a police officer or pilot, within five years of starting out.


Ten highest paying roles in the UK

The 10 highest paying roles in the UK earn an average of £71,000 per year, with pilots reporting an average salary of £92,330 and CEOs £85,239.


Over the course of 20 years, pilots were found to accumulate the most earnings of the top-paying roles, cashing a total of £1.13 million. However, within the first five years of their career, the average pilot makes a net loss of £70,000 due to the cost of qualifications and other fees.


The second highest earning role over 20 years is financial manager, earning as much as £1.1 million; with a net gain of £99,000 within the first five years. This is because job-seekers do not necessarily need a degree to start their career, with many top firms moving away from degree requirements and instead offering vocational training.


Rounding off the top five earning careers, Standout CV’s analysis found that PR directors amass £939,722 of earnings over 20 years, senior police officers will earn £916,279, and CEOs £807,722.




It might seem surprising to see CEOs earning less than senior police officers and other top-paying careers. However, the study found most CEOs start their career within graduate sales positions, with varying degrees of student debt and volatility of earnings through their career paths.

For medical professionals, the choice can be whether to work in a community setting or a hospital environment. According to the study, those who become GPs will earn more over 20 years than those who work in a hospital, with GPs earning an average of £636,615 whilst hospital doctors earn £592,105 across the same period. However, this disparity between the GPs and hospital doctors reverses by the 24th year, with those working in hospitals earning more than their GP counterparts.


Both GPs and hospital doctors have an average qualification cost of £80,556.


“As our study shows, many of the top-paying roles in the UK require high fees to be paid to get a foot in the door, which for many could be both a deterrent and worry for those from less privileged backgrounds,” said Andrew Fennell, Director at Standout CV. “It’s positive to see that such a key service like the police force provides free training and a salary that competes with other high-paid careers like CEOs and financial managers.”


Find out more here.


Photo courtesy of Canva.com

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