Qualifications have a big effect on pay

Usually the higher your qualifications, the more you're paid

The graph below shows ...

... the average gross weekly pay of full-time employees aged 16-64 by highest qualification held as researched in Quarter 1, January to March 2020 in England

Pay and qualifications graph 2020, showing how qualifications affect pay

  • Level 4 and above = for example, higher national certicate or diploma, foundation degree, degree apprenticeship or degree
  • Level 3 = A level or BTEC National Diploma
  • Level 2 = 4 GCSEs grade 9 to 4 or A* to C or BTEC First
Source: Labour Force Survey 2020;
Note: the graph above does not include earnings from any additional part-time jobs/work employees may have

Those with higher qualifications tend to earn more:

  • the number of jobs needing higher skills, such as leadership and management skills is increasing
  • the need for higher level skills is expected to be the strongest in engineering, manufacturing and construction
  • there is likely to be more competition for lower skilled jobs in the future.
    Sources: Gateway to growth: CBI / Pearson education and skill survey; The Future of Work, UKCES; Winning the Global Race, IPPR

The better your GCSE grades, the more you continue to learn and the more you can earn:

A levels/BTEC + 5 good GCSEs (grades 9-4) = achieve level 6 by age 25

By the age of 25:

  • 75% of those with 5 GCSEs and an academic level 3 eg A levels or BTEC, achieved a level 6 or higher qualification, such as a degree
  • 8% of those without 5 GCSEs achieved a level 4 or higher
Source: Post-16 education: highest level of achievement by age 25, England, May 2018, Department for Education.

Remember qualifications alone are not enough, skills, experience and attitude are just as important.

So if you want to earn more you need to get the best qualifications you can, consider an apprenticeship or college course, you may earn less in the short term but you should earn more for the rest of your life.

Page updated August 2019

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