Starting salary levels and beyond in HR, PR, marketing, consulting and sales
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Starting salaries for business apprentices vary widely. You might just be paid the apprentice national minimum wage, which applies to 16–18 year olds in their first year of an apprenticeship, and is currently £3.90 an hour (around £7,000 a year, depending on how many hours you work). At the other end of the scale, you could up to around £18,000 or more on some degree apprenticeships. Join as a graduate and your salary may well be between £18,000 and £31,000 – maybe more if you go into management consulting. After a few years you should have the potential to earn significantly more.
In HR, some apprenticeships are at the apprenticeship national minimum wage but others pay more – you'll find a number of opportunities offering £14,000 to £18,000 a year. Graduate starting salaries typically range from about £18,000 to £31,000. However, if you start out as an apprentice you may well have a couple of pay rises before graduates who are the same age as you start work and so you could end up on a similar salary. Even if you 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 include:
- HR officer salary: £27,000
- HR manager salary: £43,000
- head of HR salary: £76,500
- HR director salary: £85,000–£90,000.
Salaries for typical sales jobs tend to be roughly as follows:
- Trainee sales consultant salary: £18,000–£22,000
- Sales executive salary: £20,000–£25,000
- Sales account manager salary: £42,000
- Sales director salary: £84,000
Trainee sales consultants are entry-level roles, typically for school leavers with a few good A levels, or those on an apprenticeship. 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: £22,000
- Marketing executive salary: £26,500
- Senior marketing executive salary: £30,500
- Marketing manager salary: £42,500
- Marketing director salary: £89,000
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 assistant salary: £18,000–£20,000
- PR executive salary: £25,000
- Senior PR executive salary: £25,000–£35,000+
- PR director salary: £70,000+
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.
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.
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 (for example at PwC and KPMG) aimed at school leavers with A levels or equivalent.
According to the ISE Annual Graduate Recruitment Survey 2018, the average starting salary paid by its members to graduates starting jobs in 'consulting or business services' was £27,000. Bear in mind that ISE (Institute of Student Employers) 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 in the region of £34,000 (depending on the exact programme) plus a signing-up bonus.
- Alfa offers its graduates a salary of £40,000.
- IBM offers its consulting 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.
Salaries in this article are based on a number of sources, including the TARGETcareers and TARGETjobs websites, Reed, Indeed and Glassdoor.