Your lifetime earnings will depend on a range of factors, including your own talents and abilities. However, economic analysis tells us that occupation is important.

As an economist, you will be open to a range of different jobs and careers. Some graduates will go into finance, as managers, traders, advisors etc, others may go into the public sector with jobs in HM Treasury or as an employee of the Government Economic Service (GES). Economists have flexibility.

For example, the GES is the UK’s largest employer of economists. Within the GES there are 30 departments ranging from the Ministry of Defence to the Food Standards Agency. Your job could range from analysing how much salt should legally be allowed to be added to a loaf of bread to developing defence related statistics which allow you to advise on defence issues.

Alternatively, you could become an Actuary, applying financial and statistical theories to solve business problems. Actuaries’ work tends to be viewed as ‘risk managing’, they assess how likely it is that an event may happen and look at the costs associated with it.

You could be an investment analyst; this involves researching investment opportunities and providing ideas to fund managers. The information you provide as an investment analyst will then help the fund manager with their investment portfolio decisions.

If you feel you enjoy the statistical side of economics you could become a statistician, collecting, analysing, interpreting and presenting quantitative information. This leads you towards many areas, education, healthcare, finance, industry, government…

Academia is another option; further study may lead you to a Masters and a PhD and then research. Research is likely to include some aspect of teaching at different levels. This then allows you to focus your attention on specific areas that interest you.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that economics is the second most lucrative degree subject after using anonymised tax data and student loan records for 260,000 students up to ten years after graduation.

Most lucrative degrees, 10 years on:
Degree Women’s salaries    Men’s salaries
Medicine £45,400 £55,300
Economics £38,200 £42,000
Engineering and technology £23,200 £31,200
Law £26,200 £30,100
Physical Sciences £24,800 £29,800
Education £24,400 £29,600
Architecture £22,500 £28,600
Maths and Computer science £22,000 £26,800
Business £22,000 £26,500
History and philosophy £23,200 £26,500
Social sciences £20,500 £26,200
Biological sciences £23,800 £25,200
European languages and literature  £26,400 £25,000
Linguistics and classics £23,200 £24,100
Veterinary and agriculture £18,900 £21,400
Mass communication £18,100 £19,300
Creative arts £14,500 £17,900
Base: Median annual salary
Source: IFS and BBC

It is also interesting to note that it is estimated that around 12% of male economics graduates earned above £100,000 some ten years after graduation; by contrast, 6% of those studying medicine or law earned more than £100,000. In terms of females, it is estimated that around 9% of economics graduates earned above £100,000 some ten years after graduation; by contrast, just 1% of those studying medicine and 3% of those studying law did so (Institute for Fiscal Studies).

The job market site Adzuna has a charting tool that compares salaries for an economist (or any other job title you enter) to the national average, and also shows changes in number of vacancies by year. As of June 2018, they are showing a national average of £33,706 versus an average for economists of £49,709.

Want to know more? Look at the Complete University Guide and Prospects.