Graduate salaries: what you need to know

When looking at graduate jobs, the potential salary is likely to be one of the first things to catch your eye. For some students, earning as much money as possible is the defining reason for their chosen career path. Others are happy to take a less stressful route, sacrificing cash for a career they're personally (rather than financially) invested in.

Show me the money

Looking to make as much money as possible? According to the 2013 High Flyers report, the most lucrative career for graduates is investment banking with an estimated median starting salary of £45,000. If that's not enough, two firms featured in the report confirmed their overall graduate package is actually worth £50,000.

After investment bankers, law firms offered the next best deal with a median starting salary of £38,000. At the other end of the scale, graduates going into accounting and professional services can expect a starting salary of just £29,000. This might seem pitiful in comparison but it's actually in line with the median graduate salary across all industries.

Play the long game

While it's understandable if your head is turned by a large starting salary, it's also worth considering how your pay might change over your first few years on the job. For example, future lawyers considering Shearman & Sterling or Slaughter and May will notice they both offer the same starting salary of £39,000. However, once you're newly qualified, your salary at Shearman will have increased to £78,000 while Slaughters will only be paying you £63,000.

Another thing that will change year-on-year is the potential size of your bonus. First year analysts working at Citi were given an average bonus of £16,000 in 2012, a relatively paltry figure compared to the £22,000 average bonus at Nomura. However, by their third year of employment, Nomura analysts were pocketing an average bonus of only £39,000, ten thousand pounds less than their Citi counterparts.

More to life than money

If accumulating masses of personal wealth as rapidly as possible isn't the most important thing to you, you're probably terrible at Monopoly. It might also mean you'll be more interested in the additional benefits employers might offer. Fresh from university, the idea of a pension scheme or life insurance will probably seem ridiculous but these and other perks are worth looking out for. Here's a rundown of some of the more likely ones.

Expenses covered

When faced with a job where you have to be mobile, knowing your employers will cover the costs makes all the difference. Some firms might even offer a season ticket loan to help cover some of the cost of your commute. As well as travel, expenses might also cover any wining and dining you have to do on behalf of the firm.

Insurance

There are lots of types of insurance which might be available through your work though life and health are the most likely. Interestingly, pet insurance is becoming increasingly popular in the States, with 1 in 3 Fortune 500 companies offering it to their employees.

Pension

You've probably seen the adverts by now. You pay in, your boss pays in. Starting a pension scheme when you've barely left university behind you might seem odd but the earlier you start the better off you'll be in the long run.

Share scheme

More and more businesses have started offering their employees a chance to benefit from the company's success by giving them shares. While this can be a great earner if your company is performing well, all it takes is a panicked stock market to send the value of your stake tumbling.

Location allowance

Some employers might offer you extra money depending on where you're based and having to live. Although this might seem like free cash it's there for a reason: you're either living somewhere expensive or somewhere that's not very nice.

Holiday time

The amount of permitted holiday is likely to vary from employer to employer so it's worth keeping an eye on. Some places might also have a salary exchange scheme where you can buy extra holiday time with your salary should you need it.

Preferential rates

A lot of companies like to take care of their own and offer reduced rates on their own services should an employee ever need to use them. It's a benefit that's more applicable to some businesses than others, but is worth keeping an eye out for.

Spending that first pay packet

When that tough first month is finally over, your bank balance will swell to previously unimagined highs. Normally here at The Gateway we would always encourage you to budget and manage your money responsibly, but consider this occasion a rare exception. Time to celebrate your job with a well-earned treat.

Take family and friends out for dinner

All those long working days have led to an unhealthy reliance on microwave meals. Now you have some extra money it's the perfect time to try out one of those fancy restaurants your co-workers kept gushing about. Plus, it's a great opportunity to prove to your parents it was worth them stumping up thousands of pounds to help you through university after all!

Improve the flat

You've moved to the City in a hurry and your only belongings are whatever managed to survive the time at university. As a result, you're stuck watching TV on a faulty laptop, eating off chipped plates and storing all your books in cardboard boxes. Thankfully now you've got some money you can afford to make it look like you actually live in your flat rather than squat in it.

Gadgets & bling

Tired of enviously looking over a fellow commuter's shoulder at their iPad? Fed up of your phone's internet connection not being at a Kevin Bacon-approved level? If so, it might be time to spend some of that money on the kind of high-end gadgets your student budget could never allow for. If gadgets aren't your thing, an expensive watch or piece of jewellery gives you something fancy to wave under people's noses when they ask what you do for a living.

Freshen up your wardrobe

Wearing near-identical outfits five days a week can begin to feel awfully monotonous. When that first payslip arrives, take the opportunity and treat yourself to a couple of new outfits for work. While you're at it, it might be a good time to invest in a nice new bag for work (yes, this even applies to the men; that old Reebok backpack you're using isn't doing you any favours).

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