The right major means big money…

Is it okay to admit that I am lazy?!

Not lazy in that I cannot get out of bed or that I watch TV all day, but rather “long-term lazy”. I would rather do less work than more work, I’d rather have more vacation, and I prefer a 3-day weekend. And of course, I would rather study something easier than harder. Truth is, I don’t especially like doing difficult stuff (and I’m sure that’s not an unusual characteristic!).

That brings me to reflect once again on choice of majors. First, let me say that I am strongly against anything that ends in “ology”. I am all about the cost/benefit ratio, and that means I prefer degrees that will end up paying me money. Yes, I know, it’s a terrible thing to think about money – but the truth is that money is about so much more than material things. Money can mean success, fulfilment, even a better relationship. But I digress.

I always complain about the difference between entry-level salaries in the UK versus the US. In the US, if I do a STEM degree at a half-decent college, and I make some effort to get a good job, then I am expecting to get at least $65,000 as my starting salary. If I study Computer Science at a really good US college, I am definitely going to get paid more than $100,000 in my first job out of college.

What about in London, the city where I will get paid the most money in the UK? Well, if I get a job with a big accounting firm in London (which is a pretty good job!), I’m only going to get around £30K as my starting salary. That’s nothing for someone who lives in London – all my money is going to go on rent and transport. What if I manage to get a job with an investment bank? Maybe £45K. A tech firm? Less than you would think, because the brains of the tech companies live in the US in Silicon Valley, not in the UK, so I’d only get maybe £35K – whereas if I was in Silicon Valley, I would be getting $95K. There is only one job out of undergrad in the UK that pays what Londoners would consider big money. And that is a top programming role at an investment bank. This pays £75K.

Hey, I know it’s not all about money, but really if you want to get a good salary, you have to think about the right choice of degree. We all want the easy option – feel free to shoot me down if you want, but I can’t help feeling that studying a degree in History or Philosophy or Marketing is just a lot easier than Computer Science.

As always, comments welcome!


Peter is a true careers expert, and a leading authority on getting hired. He has worked for some of the world’s most prestigious employers including Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Deloitte. At Harrison Careers, he runs an elite team with a 15+ year track-record of helping clients to win thousands of job offers from the world’s leading companies in Technology, Finance, Banking, Consulting, Accounting, Law and other industries. When he’s not coaching clients, he’s giving presentations, running, biking, or hanging out with his 5 teenage kids.


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