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Coffee House

How much does a degree improve your lifetime earnings?

18 February 2014

5:20 PM

18 February 2014

5:20 PM

What do you say to an arts graduate? Hamburger and fries, please. It’s an old joke but one that still rings true as students consider the value of a university education. A new survey from the graduate recruitment site Totaljobs.com today suggests that 40 per cent of graduates are still looking for work six months after graduating, whilst a quarter are still unemployed a year later. The news isn’t much for those who manage to bag a job – the latest ONS’ employment figures suggest that nearly half of graduates who have found work are in jobs that don’t require degrees.

But even if the student of today takes the jump into higher education, should they consider how much going to university will affect their earnings over a working lifetime? The OECD reckons a degree is worth at least £100k but there’s a significant disparity between subjects as well as the sex of the students. Research from the Department for Business shows that for males, a medicine or dentistry degree will add nearly £400k to your lifetime earnings while a creative arts/design degree will make you £15k worse off. On average, males can expect to earn £121k from a degree. Here’s the breakdown by subjects:

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For female students, the difference isn’t quite as extreme. On average, females will earn £82k more over a lifetime. A medicine or dentistry degree will still add another £340k but a creative/arts degree will add £27k:

The monetary difference of a degree will no doubt be a key topic at the next Spectator debate on 4 March. Our panel will debating whether an arts degree is a waste of time and money. As the figures above demonstrate, such a degree is no longer a guarantee of solid employment in a good job.

The author Will Self, Wellington College’s Anthony Seldon, Sun columnist Katie Hopkins and our contributing editor Harry Cole will all be debating the pros and cons of studying an arts degree. Book your tickets here.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


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