While an LLB is worth an additional £300,000 to men
A law degree is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to its holder, a new study suggests. The average female law graduate can expect to earn close to half a million quid more over their lifetime than if they hadn’t gone to university, while males who scoop a legal degree will boost their pay by £300,000.
The research, by centre-right think tank Onward, ranks law 4th out of 22 disciplines in terms of the expected “lifetime graduate premium”.
Onward’s report looks at the financial value of different types of university degree. It compares what the average grad can expect to earn over the course of their whole working life with what they would get without a degree.
The number-crunchers say that women have a much higher lifetime graduate premium from university than men. The report states:
“Women who do not go to university have much worse labour market outcomes; primarily because not going to university puts them on a different life-track, making them more likely to have children earlier and be working part-time.”
As a result, the average female law graduate comes in £460,000 ahead of a non-graduate at the end of her working life, even after making allowances for paying more tax. That’s higher than for any discipline bar maths, economics and medicine/dentistry.
Men have a lower graduate premium, as their earnings don’t drop as much if they don’t go to uni. But a male nailing a legal degree can still expect to earn £300,000 more than his non-graduate counterpart.
Not all degrees are worth the same — or even worth doing, the figures suggest. A male English grad is £120,000 worse off from studying (obviously not enough of them are doing the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) afterwards) and most “creative arts” graduate don’t earn enough to trigger student loan repayments even after a decade. Onward argues that the number of “low value university courses” should be cut.
Predicting the future earnings premium of the average graduate is admittedly an uncertain business, and the researchers admit that their “stylised conclusions” are “experimental”.
The calculations are partly based on data from the Department for Education, which keeps tabs on how much different degree holders earn after graduation. One year after completing their degree, students earn £17,200 on average — not particularly impressive compared to other disciplines, but then many will be sitting the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). As we reported last year, two-thirds of students earn under £20,000 six months after graduation, likely due to further study.
After ten years, the average law graduate earns £33,600 — around the same as computer scientists and 8th in the earnings league table.
Onward is a new think tank closely associated with the Conservative Party. The report was co-authored by Neil O’Brien, a Conservative MP.