The figures from this report suggested that six months after graduating, the average salary of an Imperial College London Computer Science Graduate can be as high as £50,000, five times more than those graduating from dance, drama and cinematics at Liverpool Hope University who reportedly only earn £9,000. These figures reflect the extremes in the market, and it is also worth noting that Imperial College London reported the highest paid graduates across all subjects, so while £50,000 is an attractive salary it is unlikely to be the starting salary for the majority of Graduate Developer roles.
If that student loan is hanging over your head and you want to give yourself the best chance of securing a high salary in your first Graduate role then here are our top tips:
Explore the market
As tempting as it is to find a job you like the look of and discount everything else on the market, this isn’t always the best way to guarantee a good starting salary. Consider playing the field a bit, apply to a number of vacancies that interest you and find out what starting salary each company offers. You may be surprised to find out the difference in the roles and if you receive a high offer from one company but prefer the role at another it can give you more leverage to negotiate a higher offer.
Consider contract over perm
One way to get a higher salary is to look at becoming a contractor over taking a permanent role. Technical contractors can earn phenomenal day rates, but the downside is they don’t have the same job security as permanent full-time employees. A lot of graduates are yet to get a mortgage and often haven’t started a family, which means they have more freedom to explore contract opportunities when they leave University.
Promote your skills
Employers expect a certain level of skill to warrant a higher than average starting salary, so if you have solid ability of using various technical languages then you need to show this on your application. Ensure you list all the skills you have that are relevant for the job you are applying to, and ideally back each up with examples. You may want to link to work on Stack Overflow or GitHub, or even complete a technical test to show the ability you have with each programming language. Backing up your CV with this practical work will give employers more confidence in your ability and help justify a higher starting salary.
Show additional experience
One of the reasons that graduates don’t secure a high starting salary is because employers feel their experience is solely academic, which can mean that graduates who join a company need more training and support to transition into the job role. If you have any work-based experience such as freelance projects or placements from University make sure you highlight this clearly on your application.
Location can play a massive part in how much salary a candidate will get. For example, London salaries will almost always be higher than everywhere else in the UK, however the cost of living is also substantially higher, so it isn’t always as attractive as it seems. Locations that have a thriving tech scene will have a higher need for technical candidates, and higher competition to secure them which will drive up salary expectations across the board. So, if you are living in a remote area with a low number of organisations recruiting for your skill-set then consider looking further afield and relocating to an area that has more opportunity.
As a graduate, chances are you have less experience in the job application process than more senior level developers, which can make salary negotiation pretty tough. With little or no comparison, candidates will often undersell themselves for the fear of not being offered the role, and at the other end of the spectrum even price themselves too high and lose the offer entirely. Working with a recruiter means they handle the awkward salary discussion for you, and they will always push for the best salary possible because the more you get paid the higher their fee is!
Don’t forget the benefits
A high salary does not equal a great job offer so if you are debating between two opportunities you need to weigh up the overall offer and not just focus on the salary. For example, things like pension contribution, healthcare, bonus, car allowance etc. can make a lower salary more attractive than a higher salary with no benefits, so do your research.