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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.
The Metropolitan Police Service graduate scheme offers starting pay of around £29,000.

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. The Metropolitan Police Service police officer graduate entry programme and MI5's Mandarin intelligence analyst roles are among the best paid roles for recent graduates in the public sector, and several of the following schemes come with a starting salary of more than £25,000.

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–£27,000 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 £27,045, rising to £29,256 if they are based in London. A guaranteed minimum salary applies after two years on the scheme: £32,473 outside of London; £35,096 in the capital.
  • Graduates can be hired by the Intellectual Property Office as patent examiners. Payment for this role is £25,928.
  • Salaries at the National Audit Office vary depending upon your location: graduates training in London start on a salary of £27,432 while those in the Newcastle office are currently paid £21,825.
  • The Government Legal Service (GLS) will pay its trainee lawyers £23,900–£25,000 in the first year. 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 pays graduate hires £24,020.

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: £22,958 (plus inner or outer London weighting, if applicable)
  • Kent County Council: two schemes, management and finance, both of which start at £23,753
  • Lancashire County Council: £17,161–£19,126

From a financial career angle, the London Treasurer’s graduate finance scheme starting salaries are based partly on your location; in the East Midlands and Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire areas you will be paid £20,000–£24,000. London wages will be similar but will also vary depending upon which borough you are placed in. On completion of the four-year graduate training scheme pay can rise to be in excess of £35,000, regardless of which location you are in.

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: GCHQ, MI5, MI6 and the MOD/DESG

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:

  • £28,821 for graduates on the intelligence officer development programme, rising to £35,866 for those who perform exceptionally well in the recruitment process
  • £28,821 for graduates on the intelligence and data analyst development programme
  • £31,605 for the technology graduate development programme

Depending upon the role, graduates recruited by MI6 could expect to earn £25,000–£30,000 to start with, with starting pay for language specialists in Arabic, Russian and Mandarin Chinese all falling in this range.

The starting salary for engineers and scientists at the Ministry of Defence/Defence Engineering and Science Group start at a minimum of £24,130.

What do the NHS and Metropolitan Police Service pay graduates?

Alternatively, you may consider a career with the NHS. There are four separate streams within the NHS graduate management programme, all of which pay £22,444 (excluding location allowance). This, however, is based solely in England – those looking elsewhere will need to take the following figures into account, as these are focused on nation-specific schemes:

  • NHS Scotland: around £22,500
  • NHS Wales: around £19,300
  • NHS Northern Ireland: salaries are listed as ‘competitive’

Those who take the scientific and research route in the NHS (the NHS scientific training programme, or STP), rather than the general management schemes detailed above, will be paid around £25,000 upon joining the organisation..

The Metropolitan Police Service police officer graduate entry programme offers starting pay of around £29,000, which includes the basic salary and additional allowances.