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5 factors that affect your starting salary (and how to tackle them)

By UCL Careers, on 25 November 2015

Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student.

You’ve got more say in your pay than you think. Save the Student flips the lid on salaries to show you the money – and how to get it.

The good news is that having a degree stacks the salary odds in your favour: graduates go on to earn around 60% more than someone without a degree over the course of their career. While that’s a hefty bonus in the long term, take a look at some fixable factors that influence your pay from day one.

1. The going rate

Graduate salaries can fall anywhere between a measly 12 grand to more than five times that – but where you land on the scale depends on the industry you head for. Careers in technical fields are more likely to bag the bucks, with graduates in IT reporting starting salaries of up to £70,000. Pay in the Arts tends to start (and stay) much lower. Pick a career – or subject – that can work across several industries to keep your options open. Visit, What Do London Graduates Do, to get more inspiration and help inform the decision making process.

2. The route you take

Researching the going rate can give you an idea of the ballpark you’re heading into, and if there are routes or roles which could net you more. Whether you take a side-step or a full detour depends on how much starting pay matters to you. Use your Maths degree to get into accounting and you could be looking at £17k in your first year – use it for banking, and you could get twice that.

3. Demand

The fewer folk qualified to do a job, the better the pay scale – so getting further training, experience or a specialism can be strong bargaining tools for more money. If you want to play the trends, there are in-demand vocations with cash incentives open to most degree subjects – teaching is one, along with Aldi’s retail management grad scheme, which comes with a £42k golden hello.

4. Location

Big cities typically pay more, with London most likely to top the chart. You’ll pay a premium for living there, though, so it’s worth balancing the lure of better starting pay against higher rent and transport before you up-sticks.

5. Knowing how to negotiate

Asking for more cash when you’ve just landed a job might seem hideously impolite – but one of the reasons graduates earn less than they could is that they just don’t ask. Women are even less likely to negotiate (and more likely to earn less over their careers than guys doing the same job), so it’s important to know your worth.

How to negotiate like you mean it:

  • Fixating on the money at your first interview won’t give the best impression. Ask once an offer’s on the table.
  • Have compelling reasons for wanting more – whether it’s because the salary doesn’t reflect transport costs for the location or you’ve got skills that the company will profit from.
  • Be realistic: if the salary on the job ad was ‘up to £16,000’, you’ll be lucky – or ludicrous – to ask for twice that. Know the going rate, though, so you’ve got a sound basis for your pitch.
  • List what experience, solutions or qualifications you can bring to the company that other candidates can’t. If you’re super confident, you could ask for a bonus for delivering key job objectives or deadlines.
  • If your employer can’t stump up extra cash, they may be able to offer perks instead, from health insurance to travel or extra training.

There’s no shame in asking for what you’re worth – at best you get it, and at worst, you get the salary that was advertised. If you really feel the salary isn’t a fair match for your skills, it’s up to you to decide whether the business is one you can devote yourself to between now and next pay review. Once you get on the career ladder, though, the fastest way to promotions and pay rises is often by moving company – so take the long view.

Why it’s not (just) about the money

It’s unrealistic to think salary isn’t important – but it’s not the only factor in job happiness.

Doing something you enjoy sure makes it easier to go to work every day, while working with like-minded people can get you a giggle along the way.  Meanwhile, your salary will go up time, with your attitude, achievements and experience all helping to boost your pay packet.

Money isn’t the only thing a career can buy you: from training to team nights out, there are tons of ways to make it pay. Make sure you get your dues!

– Ruth Bushi, Editor, Save the Student

Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student. Featuring the kind of straight-talking advice you won’t get at school, the site has everything you need to know about managing money without the migraines: student finance explained, insider info on careers, plus ways to save and scrimp without the stress.

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