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What starting salary should a graduate in the public sector be looking for?

Find out what you can earn on a graduate scheme in the UK public sector.

Starting salaries on graduate schemes in the public sector range from around £17,000 up to around £30,000. The highest wages on offer tend to include London weighting, while salaries for roles based away from the capital are typically lower. Several of the following schemes come with a starting salary of more than £27,000. 

Graduate starting salaries within government departments

One of the more popular entry routes into the public sector for graduates is the Civil Service Fast Stream. Earnings vary from programme to programme, but in general graduates can expect to be paid in the region of £25,000–£32,000 upon being hired.

Further governmental offices run their own programmes, all of which have their own pay scales.

  • HM Revenue & Customs hires graduates via its tax professional programme. Graduates earn a minimum of £28,652, rising to £32,722 if they are based in London. A guaranteed minimum salary applies after after completing the scheme: £48,868 (national); £55,006 in London.
  • Graduates can be hired by the Intellectual Property Office as patent examiners. Payment for this role is £27,656.
  • Salaries at the National Audit Office vary depending upon your location: graduates training in London start on a salary of £29,168 while those in the Newcastle office are currently paid £23,320.
  • The Government Legal Service (GLS) will pay its trainee lawyers around £28,000 in the first year (£32,000 in the second year of training contract or pupillage). Though this is not as great a salary as you would receive with many commercial law firms, the GLS cites a different ‘work and philosophy’ in order to attract graduates.
  • The Forestry Commission graduate management programme pays graduate hires £25,294.

Local government starting salaries for graduates

There are two ways of getting into local government if a graduate scheme is what you’re after: the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) and graduate schemes with individual county councils. These are remunerated as follows:

  • NDGP: £24,174 (plus inner or outer London weighting, if applicable)
  • Kent County Council: three schemes, management (£24,473) operational research (£28,048) and highways, transportation and waste stream (£24,473). 

There are several more individual programmes within county councils; many of these are focused on finance or engineering roles, and have their own pay scales.

Graduate salaries in national security: MI5

Starting salaries for graduates at GCHQ vary from role to role and range from around £17,000 to £35,000, depending on skills and experience. Graduates joining the future leaders programme will be paid a starting salary of £30,911.

Salaries at MI5 vary considerably depending upon the specific role. At the moment these include:

  • £30,817 for graduates on the intelligence officer development programme, and the intelligence and data analyst development programme, rising to £33,316 after the first year
  • £33,783 for the technology graduate development programme rising to £36,522 after one year

What do the NHS and Metropolitan Police Service pay graduates?

Alternatively, you may consider a career with the NHS. There are five separate streams within the NHS graduate management programme, all of which pay £23,000 (excluding location allowance). 

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