The UK's best-paid jobs – The Guardian

Which jobs pay the most? It’s a question that has preoccupied most of us at some stage or other, but not one that is often straightforward to answer.
Arguably the most reliable data on pay comes from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (Ashe), conducted every year by the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 findings of which were released last week.
“Ashe is about as good as you can get, but like a lot of measures it doesn’t tell the whole story,” says William Brown, the Montague Burton professor of industrial relations at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Economics. “It uses clever ways of estimating where you don’t get responses, but it still only applies to employees, and that itself is difficult because the notion of a full-time employee is increasingly less common.”
So what can Ashe tell us about what people earn – or perhaps, more to the point, what doesn’t it say? There are certain factors that have to be taken into account. We have looked at job groups with a gross full-time median annual salary of over £40,000. The Ashe data is taken from a sample of just 1% of employees who pay tax via PAYE. More significantly, Ashe does not include the self-employed – and with that, the high-flying entrepreneurs or celebrities who help constitute the country’s really top earners. Well-known people we may think of as being conventionally employed, such as footballers or TV presenters, for example, are often self-employed and charging for contracted services.
Then there are the much-discussed financial traders and executives of the City, where it has been hard to gauge who earns what because conventional salaries are supplemented with bonuses and long-term share options. “Ashe is weak on the add-ons, bonuses, shares and goodness knows what,” agrees Professor Brown. “Plus I can’t think of any survey that picks up the legal and accounting partners, directors of multiple companies and so on.”
This may explain why Ashe figures for directors and financial workers look surprisingly low – although that may change in coming years as many banks bolster basic pay rates for key employees to comply with new Financial Services Authority rules on bonuses.
According to Ashe, the gross median full-time salary in the UK for the year ending April 2010 was £25,879 – up just 0.3% year on year, and perhaps the survey’s greatest strength is the picture it gives of the economy as a whole. As Duncan Brown, director of HR business studies at the Institute of Employment Studies, says: “Its main purpose is to give you a really good feel of the distribution of earnings for the vast bulk of people.”
Median or mean? Unless stated, the salaries listed are gross full-time medians – so there are as many people earning less than the quoted figures as there are earning more. When comparing uneven sets of figures such as rates of pay, the median is considered more accurate than the mean, which can be skewed by high salaries. The percentage increase or decrease shown is relative to the corresponding 2009 figure.
To give a sense of how salaries are spread across workforces, the lowest and highest available percentiles for each job group are also shown – Ashe tries to give salaries from the 10th to the 90th percentiles, but where data has been deemed unreliable, we have given the lowest (*) or highest (✝) value available.
10th pct: £52,000. 80th pct: £195,320.
It will come as no surprise to learn that if you want to earn high, it helps to be a mover in the boardroom. Professionals in this bracket head enterprises and organisations employing more than 500 people. They plan, direct and co-ordinate resources for operations such as processing, production, construction, maintenance, transport, storage, handling and warehousing, the resources of offices performing clerical and related functions and the specialist activities of enterprises. Related job titles: Chief executive; director; general manager; managing director.
10th pct: £34,272. 90th pct: £141,662.
Medical practitioners diagnose mental and physical injuries, disorders and diseases, prescribe and give treatment, recommend preventative action and can refer patients to a specialist. Related job titles: Anaesthetist; consultant (hospital service); doctor; general practitioner; physician; psychiatrist; psychoanalyst; registrar (hospital service); surgeon.
Percentile data unavailable.
Aircraft flight deck officers check, regulate, adjust and test engines and other equipment prior to take-off, navigate and pilot aircraft and give flying lessons. Related job titles: Airline captain; commercial pilot; flight engineer; flying instructor.
20th pct*: £38,925. 60th pct: £67,838.
National government senior officials formulate and ratify legislation and government policy, act as elected representatives of national, European or regional parliaments and represent and direct diplomatic operations. Related jobs: Assistant secretary/Grade 5 (government); diplomat; MEP; MP; permanent secretary.
Percentile data unavailable.
The only salary quoted as a mean rather than median value, as Ashe contained no data on the latter. The high mean value shows how dentistry sits comfortably among the UK’s best-paid career paths. Dental practitioners diagnose dental and oral diseases, injuries and disorders, prescribe and administer treatment, recommend preventative action and refer patients to other specialists. Related job titles: Dental surgeon; orthodontist; periodontist.
10th pct: £25,642. 80th pct: £100,000.
Financial managers plan, organise and direct financial information as well as advise on company financial policy. Chartered secretaries organise and direct work associated with meetings of directors and shareholders, act as company representatives, control share registration work, advise on company law and ensure all regulations concerning the running of a company are observed. Related job titles: Company registrar; treasurer; credit manager; financial director; merchant banker.
10th pct: £47,264. 75th pct: £60,148.
At inspector level and above, senior officers plan, organise, direct and co-ordinate the resources and activities of police work. Related job titles: Chief constable; assistant chief constable; chief inspector; chief superintendent; deputy chief constable.
20th pct*: £36,738. 60th pct: £62,159.
Managers in mining, energy and water supply plan and direct activities and resources necessary for the extraction of minerals and other natural deposits and the production, storage and provision of gas, water and electricity supplies. Related job titles: Operations manager (mining, water and energy); overman/woman; quarry manager.

10th pct: £22,682. 40th pct: £44,523.
Brokers in this area deal in commodities, stocks, shares and foreign exchange on behalf of clients or on own account, broker insurance and reinsurance, and buy and sell shipping and freight space. Related job titles: Commodity trader; financial broker; foreign exchange dealer; insurance broker.

40th pct*: £40,283. 60th pct: £56,700.
Officials in this group participate in the formulation and implementation of local government policies, ensuring legal, statutory and other provisions concerning the running of a local authority are observed, and organise local authority office work and resources. Related job titles: Chief executive (local government); town clerk.
20th pct*: £37,055. 60th pct: £73,673.
Air traffic controllers prepare flight plans, authorise departures and arrivals and maintain radio, radar and/or visual contact with aircraft to ensure their safety. Related job titles: Flight planner; ground movement controller.
10th pct: £23,220. 80th pct: £64,290.
IT strategy and planning professionals provide advice on the effective utilisation of IT in order to enhance business functions. Related job titles: Computer consultant; software consultant.
25th pct*: £39,552. 70th pct: £53,216.
Workers in this group advise on the implementation and formulation of government policy, develop and implement administrative policies of government departments, and direct the resources of local and national government offices. Related job titles: Area officer (local government); civil servant (grade 6,7); divisional officer (local government); principal/Grade 7 (government); registrar of births and deaths; superintendent registrar.
10th pct: £28,047. 80th pct: £69,454.
Managers in this group plan, organise, co-ordinate and direct resources for the systematic investigation and development of new products, or in the enhancement of existing ones.
10th pct: £22,680. 80th pct: £80,154.
Senior legal professionals advise and act on behalf of individuals, organisations, businesses and government departments in legal matters, prepare and conduct court cases on behalf of clients, preside over judicial proceedings, and pronounce judgments within a variety of court settings and tribunals. Related job titles: Articled clerk; barrister; coroner; judge; solicitor.
10th pct: £26,242. 90th pct: £81,773.
ICT managers plan, organise and co-ordinate work to operate and provide information communication technology services, to maintain and develop associated network facilities and provide software and hardware support. Related job titles: Computer manager; computer operations manager; data processing manager; IT manager; systems manager; telecom manager.
10th pct: £25,000. 90th pct: £98,147.
Managers in this bracket plan, organise, direct and undertake market research and formulate and implement an organisation’s marketing and sales policies. Related job titles: Business development manager; commercial manager; export manager; product manager; sales and marketing director.
10th pct: £29,171. 90th pct: £67,598.
HE teaching professionals deliver lectures and teach students to at least first degree level, undertake research and write journal articles and books in their chosen field of study. Related job titles: University lecturer; senior lecturer; professor; reader.
20th pct*: £34,474. 70th pct: £51,477.
Electronics engineers research and design, direct construction and manage the operation and maintenance of electronic motors, communications systems, microwave systems, and other electronic equipment. Related job titles: Broadcasting engineer; microwave engineer; radar engineer (research); radio engineer (professional).
10th pct: £29,093. 80th pct: £54,991.
Similar to electronics engineers, electrical engineers often apply their skills in more industrial settings towards electrical equipment, power stations and other electrical products and systems. Related job titles: Generating engineer (electricity supplier); power engineer; power transmission engineer.
10th pct: £28,777. 80th pct: £58,431.
Managers in this bracket plan, organise and direct resources and activities of healthcare providers and purchasers, at both district and unit level. Related job title: Clinical manager.
10th pct: £27,574. 80th pct: £68,733.
Purchasing managers organise and direct the buying policies and activities of industrial, commercial and government departments. Related job titles: Purchasing director; supplies manager.
10th pct: £25,833. 80th pct: £64,079.
Personnel and training managers plan, organise and direct the human resources policies of organisations, advise on resource allocation and utilisation problems, measure the effectiveness of an organisation’s systems, methods and procedures and advise on, plan and implement ways to improve the use of labour, equipment and materials. Related job titles: Human resources manager; industrial relations manager; works study manager.
25th pct*: £30,355. 60th pct: £44,755.
Pharmacy managers plan, organise and co-ordinate the resources and activities of retail, hospital and industrial pharmacies. Related job titles: Pharmacist’s manager; shop manager (retail trade, pharmacists).
10th pct: £23,807. 80th pct: £60,762.
Managers in construction plan and organise the building and maintenance of civil and structural engineering projects including houses, flats, factories, roads and runways, bridges, tunnels and railway works, harbour, dock and marine works and water supplies, drainage and sewage works. Related job titles: Clerk of works; contracts manager; site manager.
10th pct: £23,649. 80th pct: £64,847.
Professionals in this bracket plan, organise and direct the activities and resources of banks, building societies, insurance companies and post offices. Related job titles: Bank manager; building society manager; post office manager; sub-postmaster.
10th pct: £35,504. 80th pct: £44,048.
Train drivers pilot diesel, diesel-electric, electric and steam engines transporting passengers and goods on overground and underground railways.
Percentile data unavailable.
Physicists, geologists and meteorologists study relationships between matter, energy and other physical phenomena, the nature, composition and structure of the Earth and other planetary bodies and forecast weather conditions and electrical, magnetic, seismic and thermal activity. Related job titles: Geophysicist; mathematician; seismologist.
10th pct: £20,776. 90th pct: £84,710.
Production, works and maintenance managers plan, organise and direct the activities and resources necessary for production in manufacturing industries and the maintenance of engineering equipment. Related job titles: Engineering manager; factory manager; production manager; service manager; shift manager; works manager.
Percentile data unavailable.
Opthalmic professionals test patients’ vision, diagnose defects and disorders and prescribe glasses or contact lenses. Related jobs: Optometrist
10th pct: £31,066. 75th pct: £48,829.
These are professionals who plan, organise and direct activities and resources for the fire, ambulance, prison and customs services.
10th pct: £26,717. 75th pct: £53,536.
Professionals in this bracket introduce, present and participate in radio and TV programmes, research material for broadcasts, and assume organisational and financial responsibility for the production of programmes. Related job titles: Broadcaster; news reporter; production assistant; radio journalist; television producer; video editor.
* Lowest available percentile Highest available percentile Source: Ashe 2010
Next time you dither over leaving a tip in a restaurant, spare a thought for your humble serving staff – officially the worst-paid people in Britain, according to the 2010 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. The national median full-time wage for waiters is just £12,183. Bar staff are the next worst off, earning just £45 a year more.
The Ashe data does not cover extra money waiters can earn through tips, but “gratuities” often fail to find their way to staff, a fact highlighted by the Guardian and Observer on several occasions in the past. The practice of restaurants using tips to top up waiting staff’s salaries to minimum wage has now been outlawed, but many still fail to distribute add-ons such as service charges, especially if paid by credit card. Restaurants should clearly display their tipping policies, but if in doubt, always ask the waiter.
1. Waiter £12,183
2. Bar staff £12,228
3. Elementary sales assistant £12,562
4. Kitchen/catering assistant £12,766
5. Hairdresser £12,844
6. Cashier/checkout worker £13,123
7. Theme park attendant £13,133
8. Launderer/dry cleaner £13,299
9. Fishmonger/poultry dresser £13,589
10. Shelf filler £13,611
11. Hotel porter £13,621
12. School mid-day assistant £13,703
13. Sales/retail assistant £14,142
14. Housekeeper £14,146
15. Domestic cleaner £14,199
16. Floral arranger £14,237
17. Sewing machinist £14,250
18. Elementary office worker £14,345
19. Nursery nurse £14,736
20. Playgroup leader/assistant £15,269
Source: Ashe 2010


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