Have you ever wondered how your annual salary stacks up against the national average?
Guide updated February 2021
What is the UK average salary?
According to the Office for National Statistics, the full-time UK salary average in 2020 was £38,600. For part-time workers, the average was £13,803. These figures demonstrate a slight increase over 2019, when the full-time average was £36,611, while the part-time average was £12,495.[i]
However, the ‘average’ numbers are skewed by the top 10% of individuals making larger amounts of money each year (more than £62,589+). It’s better to look at the median salary, which is found at the exact centre of the wages and is a much better midpoint to judge your salary against.
The 2020 median was £31,461 for full-time workers and £11,234 for those engaged in part-time work.
Minimum wages in the UK
The following table explains the different age-based minimum wages in the UK.[ii]
|25 and older||21 to 24||18 to 20||Under 18||Apprentice|
|April 2020 (current rate)||£8.72||£8.20||£6.45||£4.55||£4.15|
|April 2019 to March 2020||£8.21||£7.70||£6.15||£4.35||£3.90|
These tend to change each tax year.
Apprentices will receive the apprentice rate if they are either:
- Under 19 years old
- Over the age of 19 and in the first year of an apprenticeship
For instance, a 21-year-old apprentice in their first year will receive a minimum hourly wage of £4.15. Apprentices must receive the corresponding minimum wage for their age group if they meet both of the following criteria:
- They are 19 years old or older
- Have completed the first year of an apprenticeship
For instance, a 21-year-old who has completed at least one year of their apprenticeship will receive a minimum hourly rate of £8.20. Other factors to consider:
- You must be older than school-leaving age to be eligible for the National Minimum Wage
- At least 25 to be eligible for the National Living Wage. If you are younger than 25, the minimum wage still applies
- The National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage rates are updated every April
Difference between minimum wage and living wage
Chancellor George Osborne introduced the National Living Wage (NLW) in the 2015 Summer Budget, and it came into law on 1 Apr. 2016.[iii] Despite its name, the NLW doesn’t reflect the cost of living.
The NLW means that any person over the age of 25 (who isn’t in the first year of an apprenticeship) must be paid at least £8.72 per hour. It is slightly different from the National Minimum Wage, which applies to workers under 25 (detailed above).
The minimum wages should be going up in April 2021, with the NLW threshold set to change to cover workers over the ages of 23 instead of workers over 25.
|Rate from April 2020||Rate from April 2021||Increase|
|National Living Wage||£8.72||£8.91||2.20%|
|21-22 Year Old Rate||£8.20||£8.36||2.00%|
|18-20 Year Old Rate||£6.45||£6.56||1.70%|
|16-17 Year Old Rate||£4.55||£4.62||1.50%|
Table from GOV.UK site – see full report here
The National Living Wage is different than the wage calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. They recommend a UK-wide living wage of £9.50 per hour, and £10.85 for London workers.
The Gender Pay Gap
At first glance, the gender pay gap for full-time employees seems relatively low (but still wholly unacceptable) at 7.4%.[iv] However, when you include the data from part-time employees, the data shows a different reality at 15.5%. What is going on?
- Part-time vs Full-time Wages – Hourly wages for part-time work are lower than for full-time work. In 2020, the average take-home part-time wage was £9.36 per hour, while full-time take home wages are closer to £14/hour.
- Women more likely to work part-time – 42% of women work part-time, whilst only 15% of men are employed on a part-time basis.
- Women earn less in full-time roles – 58% of women work in full-time roles, earning around 10% less than men. While it is true that women in part-time roles earn slightly more than men working in part-time roles, when you compare it across all men and women in the workforce, women earn 15.5% less than men.
There is hope – the gender pay gap has been improving for more than a decade.
Average salary by age
Your salary has a lot to do with your age. Here are some of the factors that affect your earnings as you get older, provided by the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. [v]
- Teens – For most 16- and 17-year-olds entering the job market, they can expect to earn around £200 a week.
- Twenties – As you leave school and/or university, your salary should grow quite quickly. The ASHE calculates an average man’s earnings in his 20s at £477.90 a week, while it is £440.80 for women.
- Thirties – As you enter your 30s, your wisdom and skills will begin to bear fruit, and your earnings will increase accordingly. For women, their 30s are often their earning peak. ASHE calculates the average men’s weekly wage at £613.30 and the average weekly wage for women at £557.50.
- Forties – While women’s salary peak came in their 30s, men’s income peaks in their 40s. The average annual salary for people in their 40s is £49,504.
How area affects salary
It isn’t just age and gender that affects your income – where you live in the country also has a massive impact on your salary.[vi] The UK has a substantial regional pay gap that shows no sign of slowing down.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) recently released a study that shows that incomes in Scotland and the South (excluding London) have grown much faster than the rest of the country. Average incomes in the Southeast are around 25% higher than those in the West Midlands. It’s no surprise that the West Midlands also has the highest gender gap at 27%.
Top 10 jobs and their average salaries
Do you hope to earn a sizeable salary throughout your career? Check out the top ten highest-earning jobs in the UK. No matter what career you choose, make sure that it is something you love to do. Online courses can always help you narrow down your interests and get you on the right track to your desired income. We have a guide on the highest paying jobs in the UK which you can read here.
- Chief Executives – If you have a mind for business, why not set your sights high and aim for the top job – a chief executive. This high-earning career comes with a lot of responsibility – you’ll be in charge of the entire corporation, including overseeing the senior managers. Unless you start the company yourself, you’ll need to climb the ranks and often work in senior management before ascending to your role as a chief exec. However, your hard work will be rewarded – you’ll earn anywhere from £50,000 to more than £1 million per year. Do you have what it takes?
- Entrepreneur – If you enjoy creating new ideas and working hard to get them off the ground, a career as an entrepreneur might be right up your street. This field has a steep learning curve, but with hard work and a bit of luck, you can create jobs, change the marketplace, and earn a hefty annual salary. The best thing about entrepreneurship is that there are opportunities in every niche out there, from gelato to wedding planning, scuba diving to financial services.
- Marketers – Do you know what makes people tick? Do you have a firm handle on how to highlight a product’s best features and benefits? Are you a creative type with a passion for effective advertising? If so, you could be the next big thing in marketing. Entry-level positions start around £25,000, but you could soon be earning more than £200K if you do well.
- Aircraft Controllers – Aircraft control is one of the most stressful and important jobs globally – you only work a 90-minute shift to prevent burn-out! The safety of thousands of people is in the palm of your very well-trained hand – but you’re paid well for it. Salaries start around £91,000, with plenty of room to grow.
- Analysts – No matter what the business, they will need an analyst’s services at one time or another. In this role, you’ll assess and research all kinds of data, helping to create solutions and implement plans. You could work as a financial analyst, business analyst, or even a criminal intelligence analyst – every industry needs these experts. Depending on the industry, salaries start around £20K, but range upwards of £100K with more experience. If you want to set your own hours and earn even more, set out your shingle as a freelance consultant.
- Accountants, Stockbrokers, or Bankers – If you enjoy working with numbers, why not do it professionally? Accountants and bankers are well-paid, responsible individuals who work independently or as part of a wider department. They typically earn upwards of £60K per annum. If you want to take things to an even more exciting level, enter the fast-paced world of stock trading. If you work for a big financial institution and bag high rolling clients, you could earn six figures a year, plus lucrative bonuses.
- Computer Programmer – Do you like coding, fixing problems with computers & developing hacks and shortcuts? If so, a career as a computer programmer might be the perfect career for you. In addition to the freedom and flexibility to work worldwide, you can expect to earn a handsome salary. Though starting salaries are around £20,000 a year, expect much higher wages after building your CV.
- Pharmacist – If you enjoy helping people and you’re a whiz in the lab, consider a career as a chemist. The hours tend to be quite reasonable, and you’ll have the satisfaction of helping others stay well. The average income for a UK pharmacist is £32,500, but there is plenty of room for growth if you work for a multinational pharmaceuticals company. Prefer to work directly with the people? Many chemists open their own retail locations and increase their earnings substantially.
- Legal Professionals – We all know that corporate lawyers earn large paycheques, but so too do legal secretaries and paralegals. Study to become a barrister or solicitor, and you could earn an average of £65,000 per annum, with the opportunity to earn much, much more.
- Medical Practitioners, including GPs, Specialists, and Surgeons – You’re always certain to find medical practitioners on any list of top earners in the UK. Not only is a career in medicine an extremely fulfilling (not to mention prestigious) one, it will earn you a fantastic income. GPs make an average of £75,000, while specialists can expect to double that amount.
You can view our full guide of the highest paying jobs in the UK here. Now that you understand the average annual salaries for top UK jobs, it’s time to get out there and start striving towards your goal.
Athow, J. (2019). Decoding the gender pay gap: how a Bletchley Park codebreaker helped explain a strange paradox | National Statistical. [online] Ons.gov.uk. Available at: https://blog.ons.gov.uk/2019/04/16/decoding-the-gender-pay-gap-how-a-bletchley-park-codebreaker-helped-explain-a-strange-paradox/ [Accessed 20 Jan. 2021].
Cronin, E. (2015). Pay in IT: How age affects salary and progress. [online] Personnel Today. Available at: https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/pay-in-it-uk-how-does-age-affect-pay-in-tech-sector-information-technology/#:~:text=For%20younger%20employees%20average%20annual [Accessed 20 Jan. 2021].
Crunch (2019). Living Wage vs Minimum Wage – What’s the Difference? | Crunch. [online] Crunch. Available at: https://www.crunch.co.uk/knowledge/employment/living-wage-minimum-wage-whats-difference/ [Accessed 25 Nov. 2019].
GOV.UK (2020). National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates [Accessed 20 Jan. 2021].
Hannah, F. (2017). Regional pay gap: The ever-increasing pay gap everyone forgets. The Independent. [online] 9 Nov. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/regional-pay-gap-gender-equality-south-east-london-north-midlands-wales-women-gender-a8043911.html [Accessed 20 Jan. 2021].
Juanita (2019). Factors that Influence Salary Growth in the UK. [online] FE News. Available at: https://www.fenews.co.uk/press-releases/33828-factors-that-influence-salary-growth-in-the-uk [Accessed 20 Jan. 2021].
Pometsey, O. (2019). Average UK salary: Ever wondered how you stack up? [online] British GQ. Available at: https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/average-uk-salary [Accessed 20 Jan. 2021].