Lies, damned lies and graduate starting salaries

What is the current average graduate salary? And does it matter?

Last week the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR)told the world that new graduates could expect to earn a salary in the region of £28,000 and since this was the average, one could expect that even better graduates could earn even more. Straight out of university. The AGR website tells us that their surveys are the best snapshot of what is happening in the graduate recruitment landscape and encourages organisations to benchmark their pay scales according to these published values.

But Sunday’s Times Good University Guide published a range of £16,963 (for Drama and Dance Graduates) to £30,348 (for Dentists), with an average salary of £22,064. That is a full six thousand pounds less than the AGR survey revealed last week. The AGR represents some of the biggest graduate schemes within professional services organisations, so perhaps that could explain the huge disparity. But The Times guide puts average salaries for accountancy graduates at £22,357 and for law graduates the figure is £19,699.

There is a third table, rarely quoted by Universities and also from The Times survey which has a scale range from £14,300 to £18,300 for what is perhaps euphemistically called ‘non-professional employment’.

There is a very real danger that smaller businesses might view these headline figures and
have a sense that they are being priced out of the market by the ‘premier league’ of graduate employers (as many University careers services see them).

That would be a huge mistake.

If you are serious about attracting talent to your organisation (and that includes enterprising graduates) you do need to offer competitive remuneration packages –but competitive for relevant skills for your area/region and sector, not against non-relevant skills (for example dentistry and medicine –the top two in The Times table) or non-relevant areas and sectors like London based professional services companies.

In some cases you may need to consider paying a small premium to attract the very best. If you’re based miles from any conurbation or University and have struggled to attract relevant and good quality candidates, for example.

Finally, we’ve also been examining the various ‘graduate prospects’ tables, based on the official graduate destinations statistics that Universities are obliged to publish. There is much debate on the value of this data, an annual snapshot taken six months after graduation, but we have unearthed one significant and strangely consistent bit of data in relation to engineering, computer science, chemistry and physics graduates: between 20% and 30% respectively of graduates of these disciplines are either unemployed or in a non-professional job six months after graduating. That’s a very significant number of STEM graduates that would jump at the opportunity to join a smaller businesses that was prepared to offer some degree of professional development and support.

 

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