What it pays to study: UPDATED

Michael dePodesta

Michael de Podesta

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about why I advise people to study science, but to look for careers in other areas. Areas, which lead to more stable, better-paid careers.

My best friend Richard Leahy dropped me a line to point out this web site which links the degree subject which people choose to their subsequent salaries. And it transpires that in the USA, Engineering, Maths and Sciences, represent smart choices both in terms of degree subject and career. But I don’t think that the same is true in the UK.

To try to make my point I have copied the data from that site, and converted the numbers to UK pounds in the table at the bottom of this article. I used a factor 1.6 to convert from dollars to pounds. If I confine myself to physics about which I have some familiarity, the table reads like this:

 

STARTING MEDIAN PAY

MID-CAREER MEDIAN PAY

Physics

£ 31 k

£ 63 k

One question immediately occurs to anyone engaged in a physics career in the UK: Where do I get a job with that starting salary?

The real figures are more like this:

 

STARTING MEDIAN PAY

MID-CAREER MEDIAN PAY

Physics

£ 31  21 k

£ 63 35 k

Obtaining a PhD with all its associated debt and sweat, might add perhaps £5k to the starting salary and maybe £10k to the mid-career salary.  I base my estimates on experience in academia, industry and at NPL, which sits somewhere in the middle. I started at NPL in the year 2000 with a PhD and 15 years research experience on a salary of £25k p.a (which would be £33k in 2011 allowing for inflation). I now earn £48k p.a. and as I explained previously, I have no complaints about my salary. But in terms of being able to buy houses, bring up families, send children to university, these salaries are not great. They rank alongside teachers and are on a par with nurses. And again, I have no complaints about this. That’s how things are in the UK.

I am – frankly – a bit odd… I live, eat and breathe physics and feel grateful to be able to earn a living doing something I love. But if you are not like me, then I advise you to study science while you have the chance, and to enjoy it. But when it comes time to earn a living, become a manager of some kind: your family and your children will thank you.

UPDATE

I had a quick scout around for evidence to support my contention that salaries for physicist are low and not reflected by the US Data.

  • A quick chat with colleagues found colleague A who had started at NPL a short number of years ago and whose starting salary in today’s terms would have been £20.2 k
  • And then I came across another colleague B who was envious of colleague A’s conditions!
  • And then another colleague who became a manager at which point their many talents were lauded and pay increases offered.
  • I found this web site which records salaries of IT posts whisch mention Physics. They amount to <1 % of all IT posts and have lower than median salries. The income distribution data is broadly rather better than what I would expect.

Salary Histogram showing the number of UK IT job adverts which mention Physics and their salaries. Click for larger picture

Salary Histogram

====================

Table below copied from http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges/degrees.asp and dollar salaries converted to UK salaries using a factor 1.6

 

UK

USA

 

STARTING MEDIAN PAY

MID-CAREER MEDIAN PAY

STARTING MEDIAN PAY

MID-CAREER MEDIAN PAY

Petroleum Engineering

£ 61 k

£ 97 k

$ 98 k

$ 155 k

Chemical Engineering

£ 40 k

£ 68 k

$ 65 k

$ 109 k

Electrical Engineering

£ 38 k

£ 64 k

$ 61 k

$ 103 k

Materials Science & Engineering

£ 38 k

£ 64 k

$ 60 k

$ 103 k

Aerospace Engineering

£ 38 k

£ 64 k

$ 61 k

$ 102 k

Computer Engineering

£ 39 k

£ 63 k

$ 62 k

$ 101 k

Physics

£ 31 k

£ 63 k

$ 50 k

$ 101 k

Applied Mathematics

£ 33 k

£ 62 k

$ 53 k

$ 99 k

Computer Science

£ 35 k

£ 61 k

$ 57 k

$ 98 k

Nuclear Engineering

£ 41 k

£ 61 k

$ 65 k

$ 98 k

Biomedical Engineering

£ 34 k

£ 61 k

$ 54 k

$ 98 k

Economics

£ 30 k

£ 59 k

$ 47 k

$ 95 k

Mechanical Engineerin

£ 37 k

£ 59 k

$ 58 k

$ 95 k

Statistics

£ 31 k

£ 59 k

$ 49 k

$ 94 k

Industrial Engineering

£ 36 k

£ 58 k

$ 57 k

$ 93 k

Civil Engineering

£ 33 k

£ 56 k

$ 53 k

$ 90 k

Mathematics

£ 29 k

£ 56 k

$ 47 k

$ 90 k

Environmental Engineering

£ 32 k

£ 55 k

$ 52 k

$ 89 k

Management Information Systems

£ 32 k

£ 55 k

$ 51 k

$ 88 k

Software Engineering

£ 34 k

£ 55 k

$ 55 k

$ 88 k

Finance

£ 29 k

£ 55 k

$ 47 k

$ 87 k

Government

£ 26 k

£ 55 k

$ 41 k

$ 87 k

Construction Management

£ 31 k

£ 53 k

$ 50 k

$ 85 k

Supply Chain Management

£ 31 k

£ 53 k

$ 50 k

$ 85 k

Biochemistry

£ 26 k

£ 53 k

$ 42 k

$ 85 k

Industrial Design

£ 28 k

£ 53 k

$ 44 k

$ 84 k

Electrical Engineering Technology

£ 34 k

£ 53 k

$ 55 k

$ 84 k

Food Science

£ 27 k

£ 52 k

$ 43 k

$ 84 k

International Business

£ 26 k

£ 52 k

$ 42 k

$ 84 k

Civil Engineering Technology

£ 29 k

£ 52 k

$ 47 k

$ 83 k

Geology

£ 28 k

£ 52 k

$ 45 k

$ 83 k

Computer Information Systems

£ 30 k

£ 52 k

$ 48 k

$ 83 k

Mechanical Engineering Technology

£ 32 k

£ 51 k

$ 52 k

$ 81 k

Molecular Biology

£ 25 k

£ 51 k

$ 41 k

$ 81 k

Chemistry

£ 26 k

£ 51 k

$ 42 k

$ 81 k

Film Production

£ 26 k

£ 50 k

$ 42 k

$ 81 k

Political Science (PolySci)

£ 25 k

£ 50 k

$ 40 k

$ 80 k

Biotechnology

£ 26 k

£ 50 k

$ 41 k

$ 80 k

International Relations

£ 25 k

£ 50 k

$ 41 k

$ 79 k

Occupational Health and Safety

£ 29 k

£ 49 k

$ 46 k

$ 79 k

American Studies

£ 27 k

£ 49 k

$ 43 k

$ 79 k

Information Technology

£ 30 k

£ 49 k

$ 48 k

$ 79 k

Industrial Technology

£ 30 k

£ 49 k

$ 48 k

$ 78 k

Information Systems

£ 30 k

£ 49 k

$ 48 k

$ 78 k

Telecommunications

£ 23 k

£ 49 k

$ 37 k

$ 78 k

Urban Planning

£ 26 k

£ 49 k

$ 42 k

$ 78 k

Accounting

£ 28 k

£ 47 k

$ 45 k

$ 76 k

Philosophy

£ 25 k

£ 47 k

$ 40 k

$ 76 k

Zoology

£ 24 k

£ 47 k

$ 38 k

$ 75 k

Advertising

£ 24 k

£ 47 k

$ 38 k

$ 75 k

Architecture

£ 26 k

£ 47 k

$ 42 k

$ 74 k

Marketing & Communications

£ 24 k

£ 46 k

$ 38 k

$ 74 k

Literature

£ 24 k

£ 46 k

$ 39 k

$ 73 k

Fashion Design

£ 23 k

£ 45 k

$ 36 k

$ 72 k

Global & International Studies

£ 24 k

£ 45 k

$ 38 k

$ 72 k

Biology

£ 24 k

£ 45 k

$ 38 k

$ 72 k

Environmental Science

£ 25 k

£ 45 k

$ 40 k

$ 71 k

Linguistics

£ 25 k

£ 44 k

$ 40 k

$ 71 k

Business

£ 26 k

£ 44 k

$ 41 k

$ 71 k

Microbiology

£ 24 k

£ 44 k

$ 39 k

$ 70 k

Nursing

£ 33 k

£ 43 k

$ 53 k

$ 69 k

History

£ 24 k

£ 43 k

$ 38 k

$ 69 k

Public Administration

£ 25 k

£ 43 k

$ 40 k

$ 69 k

Hotel Management

£ 23 k

£ 43 k

$ 36 k

$ 69 k

Forestry

£ 26 k

£ 42 k

$ 42 k

$ 67 k

Communications

£ 24 k

£ 42 k

$ 38 k

$ 67 k

Landscape Architecture

£ 26 k

£ 42 k

$ 42 k

$ 67 k

Geography

£ 25 k

£ 42 k

$ 40 k

$ 67 k

Journalism

£ 23 k

£ 42 k

$ 36 k

$ 66 k

Health Sciences

£ 22 k

£ 41 k

$ 36 k

$ 66 k

English

£ 23 k

£ 41 k

$ 37 k

$ 66 k

Public Relations (PR)

£ 22 k

£ 41 k

$ 36 k

$ 66 k

French

£ 24 k

£ 41 k

$ 38 k

$ 66 k

Sports Management

£ 22 k

£ 41 k

$ 35 k

$ 65 k

Liberal Arts

£ 24 k

£ 40 k

$ 38 k

$ 63 k

Anthropology

£ 22 k

£ 40 k

$ 36 k

$ 63 k

Human Resources

£ 24 k

£ 39 k

$ 38 k

$ 63 k

Organizational Management

£ 26 k

£ 39 k

$ 42 k

$ 62 k

Agriculture

£ 24 k

£ 38 k

$ 39 k

$ 62 k

Psychology

£ 22 k

£ 38 k

$ 35 k

$ 61 k

Medical Technology

£ 28 k

£ 38 k

$ 45 k

$ 61 k

Health Care Administration

£ 23 k

£ 38 k

$ 37 k

$ 61 k

Sociology

£ 23 k

£ 38 k

$ 36 k

$ 61 k

Radio & Television

£ 22 k

£ 38 k

$ 35 k

$ 60 k

Hospitality & Tourism

£ 22 k

£ 37 k

$ 36 k

$ 60 k

Visual Communication

£ 22 k

£ 37 k

$ 36 k

$ 59 k

Criminal Justice

£ 22 k

£ 37 k

$ 35 k

$ 59 k

Fine Arts

£ 22 k

£ 37 k

$ 36 k

$ 59 k

Spanish

£ 23 k

£ 37 k

$ 36 k

$ 58 k

Interior Design

£ 21 k

£ 36 k

$ 34 k

$ 58 k

Humanities

£ 22 k

£ 36 k

$ 35 k

$ 58 k

Horticulture

£ 25 k

£ 36 k

$ 40 k

$ 57 k

Theater

£ 22 k

£ 36 k

$ 35 k

$ 57 k

Music

£ 23 k

£ 36 k

$ 37 k

$ 57 k

Graphic Design

£ 22 k

£ 35 k

$ 36 k

$ 57 k

Fashion Merchandising

£ 23 k

£ 35 k

$ 37 k

$ 56 k

Dietetics

£ 26 k

£ 35 k

$ 42 k

$ 56 k

Education

£ 23 k

£ 34 k

$ 37 k

$ 55 k

Kinesiology

£ 21 k

£ 34 k

$ 34 k

$ 55 k

Photography

£ 21 k

£ 34 k

$ 33 k

$ 55 k

Nutrition

£ 24 k

£ 34 k

$ 39 k

$ 54 k

Interdisciplinary Studies

£ 23 k

£ 34 k

$ 36 k

$ 54 k

Exercise Science

£ 21 k

£ 34 k

$ 33 k

$ 54 k

Social Science

£ 23 k

£ 34 k

$ 37 k

$ 54 k

Drama

£ 24 k

£ 34 k

$ 38 k

$ 54 k

Multimedia and Web Design

£ 25 k

£ 34 k

$ 40 k

$ 54 k

Animal Science

£ 21 k

£ 34 k

$ 34 k

$ 54 k

Paralegal/Law

£ 22 k

£ 33 k

$ 35 k

$ 54 k

Art History

£ 24 k

£ 33 k

$ 38 k

$ 53 k

Art

£ 22 k

£ 33 k

$ 35 k

$ 52 k

Theology

£ 22 k

£ 33 k

$ 36 k

$ 52 k

Public Health (PH)

£ 22 k

£ 32 k

$ 36 k

$ 52 k

Athletic Training

£ 22 k

£ 31 k

$ 35 k

$ 50 k

Religious Studies

£ 21 k

£ 31 k

$ 33 k

$ 50 k

Recreation & Leisure Studies

£ 22 k

£ 31 k

$ 35 k

$ 49 k

Special Education

£ 21 k

£ 30 k

$ 34 k

$ 48 k

Culinary Arts

£ 19 k

£ 29 k

$ 30 k

$ 47 k

Social Work

£ 20 k

£ 28 k

$ 32 k

$ 44 k

Elementary Education

£ 20 k

£ 28 k

$ 32 k

$ 44 k

Child and Family Studies

£ 19 k

£ 25 k

$ 30 k

$ 41 k

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