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Women graduates’ starting salaries well below men’s, according to TheCompleteUniversityGuide.co.uk analysis of official figures

Tom Allingham
24 October 2016

Graduate Scheme
iStock/shironosov
Our findings reveal that female graduates earn less than
their male counterparts in a number of subject groups

Starting salaries for male graduates are significantly higher than those of their female counterparts, according to analysis of the latest official figures by TheCompleteUniversityGuide.co.uk.

Of the 57 subjects for which sufficient data were available, male graduates earned a higher starting salary in 32 areas. This included eight subjects where the pay gap was at least £2,000, and a further 11 where it was at least £1,000. Across the 57 subjects, male graduates earned an average of £1,400 more than females.

By contrast, there were eight subject groups in which female graduates earned more than males, including three where the gap was £1,000 or more.

The analysis, conducted using starting salaries reported by graduates during the annual Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, also revealed that male and female graduates in 17 subject groups experience no difference in pay.

Among the eight subjects where female graduates received a higher starting salary, four were engineering fields (Civil, Electrical & Electronic, Mechanical, and General), with a further two also falling under the classification of STEM subjects (Pharmacology & Pharmacy, and Materials Technology). General Engineering had the largest pay gap in favour of females, with male graduates in this area being paid £1,500 less than their female colleagues. 

Subject groups where female graduates earn more than male graduates
Subject groupMale median starting salaryFemale median starting salaryDifference
General Engineering £26,000 £27,500 £1,500
Materials Technology £21,000 £22,000 £1,000
Mechanical Engineering £26,000 £27,000 £1,000
Civil Engineering £25,000 £25,500 £500
Electrical & Electronic Engineering £25,000 £25,500 £500
Pharmacology & Pharmacy £18,500 £18,700 £200
Archaeology £18,000 £18,194 £194
Social Work £25,440 £25,500 £60

Of the eight subjects where male graduates earned at least £2,000 more than females, the majority were from humanities disciplines, of which Theology & Religious Studies had the biggest pay gap (£2,182). French, Classics & Ancient History, Iberian Languages, and Philosophy all paid males £2,000 more than females. Male graduates of Agriculture & Forestry benefited from the largest gender pay gap of any kind, receiving £2,500 more than female graduates.

Subject groups where male graduates earn at least £2,000 more than female graduates
Subject groupMale median starting salaryFemale median starting salaryDifference
Agriculture & Forestry £21,500 £19,000 £2,500
Theology & Religious Studies £22,500 £20,318 £2,182
Medicine £30,000 £28,000 £2,000
French £23,000 £21,000 £2,000
Classics & Ancient History £22,000 £20,000 £2,000
Iberian Languages £22,000 £20,000 £2,000
Philosophy £20,000 £18,000 £2,000
Art & Design £20,000 £18,500 £1,500

On average, male graduates from all subject groups earned a median starting salary of £23,000, while females earned £21,600. In Medicine, the subject in which males earned the joint-highest starting salary (£30,000), females received £2,000 less; however, in Dentistry – the other subject paying £30,000 to graduates – male and female graduates received the same salary.

"Gender equality still has some way to go"

Dr Bernard Kingston, principal author of TheCompleteUniversityGuide.co.uk, said: “This analysis is the first of its kind to focus on students with tuition fees of £9,000 per year. On graduation in a wide range of subjects, they did not secure jobs that paid over the £21,000 threshold required to start paying back their student loans.

“The fact that female graduates are still being paid less than their male counterparts, even after graduating from the same subjects, suggests gender equality still has some way to go.

“However, it is notable that the fields in which female graduates earn more than males are largely STEM subjects. The fact that the gender imbalance favours them in these areas might help to make these subjects more attractive to women.”

TheCompleteUniversityGuide.co.uk will be publishing further analyses of the graduate employment data, including its unique top graduate employers, over the coming weeks.