Zoe Woolacott | 12 Jul 2021

Pay for qualified degree-apprentices competes with graduate salaries

Pay for fully-trained degree apprentices is now level with the typical completion salary for traditional graduate roles, according to our latest study on pay for these trainee positions. The median salary on completion of a degree apprenticeship is £32,502, virtually identical to the minimum median salary of £32,500 on programme completion for traditional graduate entry roles. This marks a change from our previous studies where the pay gap was much wider – some 10% in 2020.

While traditional graduate positions are likely to remain important, we might also witness further growth in the numbers of the newer degree apprenticeship roles. This may involve the spread of degree apprentice schemes to attract candidates and develop talent in new areas, for example to grow online business.

Meanwhile, starting salaries for graduates have increased by just under 2% this year. We have observed relatively subdued pay growth for graduates since 2017 and this has coincided with the rising popularity of degree-level apprenticeships, which were first introduced in 2015. During this time, commencement salaries for degree apprentice roles have grown more rapidly than hiring pay for traditional graduates. However, in 2021 growth here slowed with pay for these positions increasing by just 1% since 2020.  

Pay progression

Graduates begin their training with a degree qualification and this is reflected in the higher starting salaries on offer when compared to pay for degree apprentices - £28,000 versus £19,000 respectively. However, salaries for degree-level apprentices increase at a faster rate over a similar period of time. Our research has found that in 2021 the gap between starting and completion salaries for degree apprentices is over 70% on average, while that for graduates is only around 16%.

Elsewhere, pay for other apprenticeships – those at intermediate, advanced or higher level – also increases sharply between the start of training to completion. The median salary for intermediate-level apprentices rises from £14,000 in the first year to a minimum of £19,553 on completion of training programmes – representing an increase of 40%. Similarly, for workers on advanced-level apprenticeships the basic annual salary typically starts at £15,500 and increases by 42% to a minimum of £22,000 on completion. A higher-level apprentice is likely to earn £17,500 in the first year but salaries for trainees at this level rise by 62% to a minimum of £28,347 at the median on completion.

Pay prospects for graduates after completion

Graduates usually undertake roles with increasing responsibility, such as management, after completion of their programme and this is reflected in the salaries on offer three and five years after hiring. Our analysis shows that graduates recruited three years ago have a salary lead of around 9% on those completing their training in the current year, while the lead for those recruited five years ago is much greater at nearly 30%.

Want to know more?

Further information and findings from our study are available now. Purchase our Graduate and Apprentice Pay report, 2021 by following the link below: 

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