It's worth getting a 2:1 if you canEVEN SCRAPING AN UPPER SECOND MAKES YOU £2,000 EXTRA PER YEAR

We all know that your degree result has an impact on career success, but did you know just how much difference getting a 2:1 can make to your earning potential?

New research from the London School of Economics shows that even if you scrape a 2:1 degree, you will earn £2,000 a year more than if you got a high 2:2 result. While the LSE study does not examine the long-term impact on graduate income, if this initial gap is anything to go by, narrowly missing out on a 2:1 could mean a difference of £81,000 over the course of an average 40-year career.

Two PhD students, Andy Feng and Georg Graetz, carried out the study on the “2:1 effect”, analysing the grades of LSE graduates from 2005-2010 and comparing them with the average wages in the industries they were entering. They focussed on the salaries of people on the 2:1 threshold to ensure they were comparing graduates with similar academic ability. The difference between a 2:1 and 2:2 could be as little as one student getting 60% rather than 59% in just one exam.

This 1% grade gap turns out to be quite significant even six months after graduating. Feng told the Times Higher Education magazine:

“These higher salaries were caused by the 2:1 effect and nothing else. These were students who were broadly [at] the same academic level and it was just a matter of what side of the threshold they fell.”

Their study also found that there was a further earning premium for graduates who just managed to scrape a first-class degree. But the premium attached to a 2:1 was twice that attached to a first-class. Those who got a low first earned only £1,000-a-year more than those who earned a high 2:1.

A 2:1 result is fast becoming a must-have on graduate job applications and this study highlights just how important degree results are for job success – and many employer won’t look at applications from candidates with anything less. But this study suggests that too much importance is being placed on the broad category of result, casting doubt on the current way of grading degrees according to broad classes. Critics argue that the US-style grade-point-average (GPA) system is much fairer on graduates its better takes into account degree results that are on the threshold.

Graduate Fog is stumped on this one. Clearly, there is some merit to group graduates according to their level of academic achievement – and creating broad classes of results certainly makes it easier for employers to quickly reduce the large numbers of applications in their in-tray. However, these wage premiums do seem very high, for what could only come down to measly per cent or so difference between one candidate and another. It seems there could well be a case for changing the classification system to a GPA score, as they do in America. Alternatively, what’s wrong with a plain old percentage score?


Do you have a 2:1 or a 2:2? Has it had an impact on your hunt for a graduate job? Do you believe it could have a major impact on your lifetime earnings – or is it hard to believe that just a few percentage points makes such a big difference?

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