The real average graduate salary is nearly £10,000 a year less than previous figures have suggested, new figures reveal. Despite claims from the Association of Graduate Recruiters earlier this year that the average graduate wage is £29,000, it now seems that the true average wage is just under £20,000.

The fresh data helps shed some light on the huge discrepancy between what graduate employers say they’re paying their staff – and what graduates tell us you are actually earning. The difference has been a matter of fierce debate on Graduate Fog in recent months

(See our previous posts Average graduate salary is now £29,000 (er, on what planet?!) and Average graduate salary to hit £26,000 – but how many are really earning that much?)

Okay, some graduates start on £45,000 in the finance sector – but we speak to many more earning around the minimum wage, that’s if they’re even being paid at all (Interns, all wave to your employer who is paying you nothing).

A spokesperson for HECSU – who published the figures – told Graduate Fog:

“The AGR survey is fine as long as what you’re interested in is large graduate recruitment schemes for big household-name firms, usually based in London and with a heavy bias towards the finance industry.

“The survey is really strong on those, so if a graduate wants to get on a PWC management consultancy scheme and work in London , then it gives a decent guide to those salaries. But the survey doesn’t really cover small businesses or the public sector or much science, or the arts or social care or… you get the picture.

“Of course, most graduates don’t go onto big graduate recruitment schemes (the AGR survey covers about 10% of the jobs market by numbers), so as a real figure for what most graduates experience in the jobs market when they start out, it isn’t helpful.

“We prefer the DLHE data, which is not perfect, but covers over 75,000 graduates and looks across the whole spectrum of employees, from graduates working in Tescos to undersea geologists.

“Starting salaries have basically been static since the recession began – which is a few years now. Don’t expect to see the average starting salary for graduates to get above £20k for a little while, and especially not outside London or in Wales or Northern Ireland.”

So how much ARE graduates really earning? According to these numbers, the average wage for graduates six months after graduation was £19,935. Salaries in London were the highest at £22,707 – and in the rest of England the average was £18,991. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the figure was £20,509, £18,365 and £18,823 respectively.

The highest paid jobs were in management consultancy (£20,033), IT (£19,121) and HR (£18,413).

Clearly, these figures sound much more like it. But big questions remain. Why is it these inflated figures (from sources like the Association of Graduate Recruiters and High Fliers) that always appear in the press, and not the true figures? Who is it helping, to prevent that graduates are earning more than they actually are? Young people are making big decisions about spending a huge amount of money on expensive qualifications. Don’t they deserve to know the facts, to help them decide whether their investment is likely to pay off?

Are you happy with your salary? Did you think you’d be on a better wage after you graduated than you actually are? Do you feel you were misled – or did you just assume you’d be making decent money, once you had your degree?

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