How much will I earn in business?

How much will I earn in business
What's a typical salary for a marketing assistant? How much does an HR manager earn? Find out about business salaries, both when you start work as a school leaver or graduate and once you have experience.

Quick links for this article

HR (human resources) Sales Marketing PR (public relations) Management consulting

If you start a career in business at 18 – for example on a higher apprenticeship or in an entry-level role – you’re likely to earn between £14,000 and £20,000. Join as a graduate and your salary may well be between £18,000 and £30,000 – maybe more if you go into management consulting. After a few years you should have the potential to earn significantly more.


In HR, school leaver starting salaries tend to range from about £14,000 to £18,000, with graduate starting salaries from about £18,000 to £25,000. However, school leavers may well have a couple of pay rises before graduates who are the same age as them start work and so could end up on a similar salary. Even if they don’t, completing professional qualifications while working can narrow this gap significantly over time. These are offered by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Earning potential varies as you move up the career ladder. Examples of average salaries, courtesy of Reed, include:

  • HR adviser salary: over £31,000
  • HR manager salary: over £44,000
  • head of HR salary: over £62,000
  • HR director salary: over £86,000.


Salaries for typical sales jobs tend to be roughly as follows:

  • Trainee sales consultant salary: £16,000–£18,000
  • Sales executive salary: £20,000–£30,000
  • Sales account manager salary: £30,000–£45,000
  • Business relationship manager salary: £50,000–£60,000+
  • Sales director salary: £80,000–£120,000+

Trainee sales consultants are entry-level roles, typically for school leavers with a few good A levels, or those on an apprenticeship or school leaver programme. Graduates on a commercial or business programme will earn a sales executive salary, with larger employers paying at the top end of this band.

Salaries in sales vary hugely depending on the industry. Pharmaceuticals offers the opportunity to earn the most, with big IT, engineering and electronics companies also in a position to pay higher salaries than recruitment or media employers. Salaries are often advertised as OTE (‘on target earnings’ or ‘opportunity to earn’). This indicates that your salary will be partially based on commission, and that missing targets will result in a lower wage. As your career progresses, your salary will increase according to your client base.


Salaries for typical marketing jobs tend to be roughly as follows:

  • Marketing assistant salary: £16,000–£18,000
  • Marketing executive salary: £18,000–£24,000
  • Senior marketing executive salary: £24,000–£28,000
  • Marketing manager salary: £28,000–£35,000
  • Marketing director salary: £50,000 to £80,000+

Marketing assistant jobs are typical entry-level roles, either for school leavers with some office experience and a marketing qualification or two or for graduates. It’s sometimes possible to start your career at marketing executive level, though typically only if you have either a good Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification or a degree. See our advice on how to get into a business career for more on these positions and the levels of experience you need to get them.

Graduate schemes with large employers tend to pay a little more. A graduate in their first job at such a company might earn in the region of £25,000.


Salaries for PR jobs vary depending on location and if you work for a consultancy or an in-house team. Pay scales tend to be roughly as follow:

  • PR executive assistant salary: £18,000–£20,000
  • PR executive salary: £20,000–£28,000
  • Senior PR executive salary: £28,000–£50,000
  • PR director salary: £50,000–£100,000+

PR executive assistant jobs are typical entry-level roles for graduates. School leavers may have to complete an apprenticeship scheme first at a lower wage and then progress to an executive assistant level and salary. For example, a Buckinghamshire-based PR consultancy, specialising in the construction and property sectors, previously advertised an apprenticeship on the national government apprenticeship website where the weekly wage was £220. Typically, apprentices with A levels will earn around £10,000–£14,000. If a student only has GCSEs they will usually earn less; pay scales tend to be around £5,000–£8,000.

It may be possible for graduates to start their career as a PR executive. However, for either graduates or school leavers to advance their PR career, studying for qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) as well as building up a lengthy contact list is often essential. See our article on how to start your career in business for more information on the CIPR courses.

Management consulting

Most consulting employers are tight-lipped when it comes to talking about money before they offer you a job, preferring instead to leave it to your imagination with descriptions such as ‘competitive’ or ‘highly competitive’. This is true both for graduate jobs and the small number of consulting programmes (at PwC, KPMG and Deloitte) aimed at school leavers with A levels or equivalent.

According to the latest biannual survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), the average starting salary paid by its members in the consulting sector for graduates is £26,500. Bear in mind that AGR members tend to pay salaries at the higher end of the scale – despite this, however, the employers advertising with our graduate careers website TARGETjobs who do reveal their salaries tend to offer more than this. For example:

  • Accenture offers its analyst consulting graduates a starting salary of c£31,500 plus a £10,000 bonus within the first two years of working for the company.
  • CHP Consulting offers its graduates a salary of £40,000 plus a £5,000 sign-on bonus.
  • IBM offers its graduates £30,000+.

It’s safe to assume that offers of graduate salaries from most consulting firms will be similar to the above. Reports suggest, for example, that applicants at McKinsey could earn over £40,000 in their first year.

Consulting firms tend to be generous with their employee benefits. Some of the typical benefit options school leavers and graduates could be offered in their first year include private health cover and dental insurance, subsidised gym membership, bonuses and relocation expense reimbursement.

Search for...

Degree Explorer

The Degree Explorer helps you plan for your future! Match your interests to university subjects and explore each recommendation to find out what suits you.

Get started

Teacher or parent?

Join our mailing list to receive monthly newsletters from our TARGETcareers and Inspiring Futures teams to help you support your school leavers in their career and university decision making.