It's easy to feel dissuaded from following the well-trodden path of GCSEs - A Levels - Degree: with tuition fees tripling in the last five years, many young people are starting to ask 'Is a degree worth it?'.
It's a valid question. The average 3 year degree in England, considering tuition fees and living costs, will set you back around £66,000 from September 2017. Add the fact that some companies such as Ernst and Young recognise that lack of a qualification does not equal a lack of potential, and have scrapped the pre-requisite of a degree for their graduate scheme, young people considering whether a degree is worth it are faced with some tough decisions. But applications like this are still the expectation rather than the norm. For the overwhelming majority of top consultancies, you still need an undergraduate degree to be able to even apply for the schemes.
So in terms of return on investment, is a degree worth it? Research from the Nuffield Foundation suggests that, for now, the answer is yes. Looking at future earnings potential, non-graduates are twice as likely to have no earnings than graduates ten years on. For those earning over £8,000 a year, median earnings for male graduates were £30,000 compared to male non-graduates at £22,000. The gap for women was even greater, at £27,000 for graduates compared to £18,000 for non-graduates.
It's not only whether you have a degree or not that can make a difference to your future earnings. Which university you go to, and which degree subject you study, can have a big effect on employability and potential earnings, and help determine whether a degree is worth it. Taking a look at three different universities - Durham, Swansea and Warwick - graduates of computer science on average earn more 6 months after their course finishes than graduates of politics or ancient history at the same university.
The decision to go to university or not is a personal one. If you are planning on pursuing a certain career, such as medicine or architecture, then you have to get a formal qualification. If you want to pursue a graduate scheme with a consultancy firm, then the majority of them still expect a degree. What subject you want to study, and which universities you are applying to, can all affect your future potential earnings. In the end, only you can decide if a degree is worth it.
At Sliips, we believe that pay should be more transparent, and that making these kind of decisions about moving on to higher education and choosing a career path would be made easier with more clarity around salary. As the only pay comparison website using data powered by real payslips, we can help you unravel the truth around your salary. Get started here.