Your degree might be worth £540,000

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) released research (well, data analysed from the past 10 years of ONS information) that shows that graduates earn more than non-graduates. According to them, the highest average wage a non-degree earner receives is £19,400 while the highest average wage for a graduate is £34,500, and the average difference is £12,000 a year.

That’s about £5400,00 over a lifetime of working, assuming you begin work at 20 (I split the difference between 18 and 22) and end work at 65. This goes higher than the old saying that a graduate earns £400,000 in their lifetime, a ‘fact’ I question, and completely blows the PwC research that you may earn £160,000 more as a grad out of the water.

So what in the hey? Well, it’s a bit tricky this one. Remember in a previous post I mentioned that doctors and dentists can earn over £340,000 the average wage, while those with an arts degree may earn less than £3,000 more (and get to pay back students debt)? Well, this new research doesn’t look at sectors to see what’s rising and what’s not – so those doctors throw the numbers out of whack, rather than say comparing people with a degree and without a degree in the same field in roughly the same job. And it doesn’t take into account the gross rise in wages, specifically financial wages, in the boom years before the recession.

Add to that the fact that the recession hit the lowest earners (50% have no qualifications higher than GCSE level according to the Research Foundation) harder, this is beginning to show not a reason to get a degree but more the gross salary discrepancy between the haves and have nots. Which our lovely Mr. Clegg addressed in his social mobility speech that so terribly backfired on him this week.

Personally, I think it is good that if you invest money in a degree, then you should be able to earn that money back and then some – it’s a nice perk. But what I don’t agree with is the idea that you may go to Uni purely to earn more money, or that just by going to Uni, you will earn more money. I believe that anyone who is better at my job than me should earn more than me, regardless of if they finished GCSEs or not – because my education doesn’t give me a privilege, nor should it be a privilege – education is a right.

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