FAO Head of Careers Advice

New (free) report shows earning potential of A Levels and degrees

I’d like to bring to your attention a study we recently commissioned into the earning opportunities available to Britain’s young people. It shows that the cost of not studying for A Levels could amount to around £1 million in lost earnings over a working lifetime compared to those who go on to qualify with a degree.

However, those who are able to secure a good apprenticeship can earn almost as much as graduates over their lifetime.

The study, called First Steps to Wealth, builds a picture of the employment and earning options open to young people.  It is free to use and download and can be accessed by using this link: http://www2.skandia.co.uk/Investor-news/Investing-for-financial-goals/first-steps-to-wealth/.

We believe it will provide a valuable resource to schools, young people and their parents in helping them make informed choices about their financial futures.

I hope you find it helpful.

Best wishes

Jo Rimmer

Key findings of the report:


  • An average graduate should earn (at today’s prices) £1,611,551 over a working career of 45 years compared to £1,023,840 for an 18 year old entering the workforce (48 year career span) and £783,964 for a 16 year old (49.5 year career span)..
  • The spectrum range of student debt at graduation post-2012/13 enrolment is £33,975 up to £48,750.
  • Despite this being a personal debt, unless a student starts earning £50,000 per year immediately upon graduation, it’s likely that a significant amount of this debt will be written off by the government. The average first year salary for a graduate is £19,653.
  • In 30 years’ time the UK government is likely to have to write-off debt of between £30,649 and £64,935 for every full-time university student who graduates in 2014.


  • The two most promising sectors for apprenticeships in terms of career span salaries are Construction (£1,503,726) and Health Care, Public Services & Care (£1,494,547).
  • The apprenticeships offering the least income over a career are Retail and Commercial (£1,038,746), Engineering and Manufacturing (£1,194,448) and Arts, Media and Publishing (£1,196,147).

School leavers

  • There is a noticeable difference between individuals who enter the workforce at age 18 (post A-levels) compared to at age 16 straight after GCSEs.
  • Over the course of a life time of work (almost 50 years) the difference is around £239,876 more for those entering work at age 18.


  • If an 18 year old were to remain on Job Seekers allowance for their whole ‘would-be’ working life with zero part-time work, they would receive a total of £166,876 at today’s payment levels – a mere 10.3% of what an average graduate can hope to earn during their working life.
  • Those who supplement the Job Seekers allowance by working the minimum allowed part-time hours would earn around a quarter (25.6%) of a typical graduate’s income over the course of their working life.

About Skandia:
Skandia is part of the wealth management business of Old Mutual plc, a leading international long-term savings group. 

Skandia, Skandia House, Portland Terrace, Southampton, SO14 7EJ.