1. Having a degree makes it far more likely that you’ll earn a high salary later in life.
The typical 30-year-old graduate in the U.K. is earning just over £30,000, although this is skewed by the fact that most ultra-high earners have gone to university.
But most people who left school after GCSEs will never hit the average national salary at any point in their lives.
2. A degree also means that your pay packet is likely to keep rising until you hit your forties.
People without degrees tend to approach their maximum salary in their early thirties.
3. Admittedly, the continued increase in the supply of graduates could change all this.
Until 20 years ago a relatively small proportion of the U.K. population went to university. But in 2013 around half of young people were accepted on to a degree course.
Compared to your parents’ generation, you’re far more likely to be competing against other graduates for jobs. Which makes it even harder to get top jobs if you didn’t go to university.
4. This is especially true if you live in London.
If you live in central London then it’s highly likely that your neighbour is a graduate.
Those are the people you’re competing against for jobs — and if having a degree becomes the norm, it gets much harder to get anything that pays well if you haven’t gone to university.
5. But unemployment data instead suggests that having a degree has insulated graduates from the worst of the recession.
Recent graduates did find it more difficult to get a job after 2008.
But non-graduates aged 21 to 30 found it far, far worse. The unemployment rate for this group jumped by two-thirds during the first 12 months of the recession.
6. That’s not to say that having a degree is a passport to guaranteed riches.
Almost half of all recent graduates are in jobs that don’t actually require them to have a degree.
But having a university qualification makes it more likely these people have got a job at all. The people losing out are those who went straight from school into the workforce.
7. Your choice of degree is very important when it comes to getting a job…
Everyone needs doctors. Not everyone needs someone with a history degree.
(But quite a lot of businesses do need media studies graduates.)
8. …and even more important when it comes to your future salary.
Engineers and scientists are in the money.
Media studies graduates are very likely to have a job — but it’ll probably be relatively low paid.
9. Going to a top Russell Group university adds £3.63 an hour to your wage…
The Russell Group is a self-selecting organisation that represents 24 top universities. Collectively they educate around a third of British university students.
They tend to produce more graduates in subjects such as medicine and engineering that attract higher wages.
10. While being a male graduate means you’re likely to earn around £3 an hour than your female counterparts.
In part this is because women are still far more likely to spend time out of the work raising children. This hinders their ability to earn as much as their male equivalents.
11. But it also comes back to subject choice. Men dominate the degrees that lead to the best paid jobs.
12. Ultimately, all these factors combine to mean graduates dominate highly skilled jobs.
13. There have been constant fears that rising tuition fees will kill the financial case for going to university.
Tuition fees have crept up since they were introduced by Tony Blair in 1998. Most students will now pay £27,000 in tuition fees for a three-year degree — and that’s without taking other living costs into account.
That’s OK if you choose your course wisely, go to a top uni and reap the rewards by taking a highly skilled job that is only open to graduates. But it could be crushing if you never come close to earning back the enormous cost of your degree.
14. But this hasn’t come to pass. Instead, more and more people keep applying to university.
Rising tuition fees have done little to put people off and around half of all Britons currently aged 17 are expected to start a degree before they hit 30.
Why? Well, one suggestion is that in the worst case scenario at least you’ll have a degree. And the more people that have a degree, the more you’ll stick out for not having one and struggle to get jobs. It’s a form of mutually assured destruction.
So getting a degree no longer guarantees you a top job.
But it makes it much more likely that you can get a better paid job — or at least some form of employment. And at the moment that extra earning potential means it probably is still worth biting the bullet and taking on all that student debt.