I want to be rich – which jobs can I do?

I want a well-paid career… what should I do?
Find out which careers pay the best salaries. You’ll need to understand the trade-off between earning more and having a life outside work.

You may want to plan how to pay off student debt, save for a rainy day or fill a bathtub with £50 notes to splash around in. Whatever the reason, you’ll need to understand that a well-paid job comes with a price and that price is normally your free time or the amount of stress that you receive. That bath full of money won’t be much comfort if you return home at midnight every weekday and only have time to cook Pot Noodle.

Also remember that many of the highest-paid professions will be in London and the capital is an expensive place to live. Research from Loughborough University in 2015 estimated that living costs for a young single adult were 47% higher in inner London and 35% higher in outer London than the rest of the country. However, if you’re saving savvy and know how to get around on the cheap, you may be able to mitigate the higher cost of living.

Top jobs by starting salary

We’ve outlined the three professions with the highest starting salary covered on TARGETcareers and our graduate careers website TARGETjobs to give you an idea what to expect monetarily and personally. If the drawbacks of all that cash are too much, we’ve also outlined some careers that offer you a decent wage with less of a catch.

Investment banking

Starting salary: up to £50,000 per year

The benefits: investment banking typically offers the highest salary out there at entry level and is likely to provide a package of perks that could include health insurance, gym membership, company cars and various discounts. The trade-off is that long days in investment banking are the only days in your early career and there is a high level of competition for positions. The investment banking industry is notoriously secretive about its practices, but Bloomberg reported in 2014 that young investment bankers were becoming ‘fed up’ with 90–100-hour weeks. The lack of free time may shrink your social circle to only include others working in investment banking. To find out more, check out finance on TARGETcareers

City law

Law is broken down into two main careers: solicitor and barrister. Solicitors deal face-to-face with clients on legal issues and refer them to a barrister if they need specialist legal advice. City law refers to a very specific set of lawyers working in the City of London on commercial issues.

Starting salary: solicitors £23,500–£50,000 | barristers £25,000–£67,500 (commercial law only) per year

The benefits: law is an intellectually stimulating career, which involves interaction with people from all walks of life. City lawyers are very well paid, but can have unpredictable and long working hours. There may be some all-night sessions in the office or weekend working around transaction deadlines, and 70-hour weeks are fairly standard in some practices. Commercial lawyers are there to make money for a client (normally a large company). Public funding cuts mean that working in ‘worthy’ areas of law (criminal and family) helping the downtrodden is nowhere near as profitable as working in commercial law. To find out more, check out law on TARGETcareers

Management consulting

Starting salary: £26,000–£40,000 per year approx

The benefits: management consultants tend to enjoy varied work and early responsibility alongside abundant employee perks and bonuses. However, workloads can fluctuate between intense periods of busyness, with long hours in the office and quieter periods. You may have to sacrifice your social life accordingly and will likely spend much of your time away from home. To find out more, check out business on TARGETcareers

Top jobs with good starting salaries and better work/life balance


Starting salary: typically £18,000–£30,000

The benefits: an IT career offers you the chance to work with cutting edge technology to be part of an industry that is constantly changing. The downside is that, particularly in IT consulting, but also with companies with multiple sites, you may have some long commutes around the country and may be away from home during the week. This can impact on your home and social life. To find out more, check out IT and technology on TARGETcareers


Starting salary: typically £18,000–£30,000

You are likely to have a tangible sense of achievement, as completed projects may remain in place for years. The minor con is that in some jobs you may have to undertake a lot of travel. To find out more, check out engineering on TARGETcareers

Retail banking, financial services insurance and actuarial

Starting salary: around £25,000–£33,000

Jobs in finance, retail banking, financial services, insurance and the actuarial profession are relatively stable positions with shorter working hours than those in investment banking. To find out more, check out finance on TARGETcareers

Figures taken from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) survey 2015 and contributions from employers.

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