The next step: students facing the class divide in graduate job market

Arts and humanities degrees garner lower salaries, how are recent working-class graduates coping? 

The next step: students facing the class divide in graduate job market

Walking out with a degree in hand and a seemingly bright future ahead. Former students are confronted by the class divide within the graduate job sector. As a student currently at this stage, it has become apparent to me that the graduate job market does not favour working-class graduates.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the average graduate salary in the UK is around £24,000. This salary is certainly a liveable wage for most of the UK. However, a closer look at the industries shows that for students who graduate in arts and humanities the starting salary is as low as £15,000. Save the Student reported the film and television industry may pay as little as £7.93/hr for entry-level Runners. Financial service company Raisin found that 16–24-year-olds were the worst savers in the UK and more likely to have no savings at all. The working-class graduates entering arts industries are at a great disadvantage because they cannot afford to work through unpaid- internships or have to work extra jobs alongside underpaying graduate jobs. even worse, they are more likely to have no money set aside for a rainy day. It is easy to assume, therefore,  that working multiple jobs while attempting to break into your desired career will slow down any career development.

On the other side of the spectrum, the finance sector has roles with starting salaries of £25,000 - £40,000. Many working-class graduates go into finance and succeed. But what about the rest of us? Access to opportunity is the biggest problem in the graduate job market. The middle/upper-class graduate can comfortably pursue their passion for the arts with barely manageable wages and progress into a successful career. The working-class graduate has little choice but to prioritise stability. Many graduates are forced to work in finance to fund their aspirations of working in the arts. 

Recent Acting and Performance graduate Faye, 22, from London, has settled in a corporate finance job whilst pursuing acting. Her primary reason for this decision is simple; “honestly, I just wanted stability.” Faye's heart is not in the finance sector, but it offers great benefits: “It's nice to know that my bills are paid, and I can do nice things whenever I want for sure. But I love acting and it sucks that I don't get to do that.”

Like Faye, many working-class graduates must choose between their dream jobs and stability. With the current cost of living crisis, there will certainly be an increase in recent graduates leaving their passions behind for the sake of paying the bills or having a third meal in the day.

Header Image Credit: Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash


Kimberly Nhundu

Kimberly Nhundu

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