It’s reported that 82% of UK graduates will never pay off their student loans and even high earning graduates that will ultimately struggle to pay back the entire debt as it is hit with rising unaffordable interest rates. Less well-off young people may be put off university, hitting the supply of graduates in key sectors such as Nursing and Social Work.

Now with the unveiling of the government’s student loan changes, analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) thinktank found that lower-middle- and middle-income graduates will be hardest hit, paying £30,000 more than current graduates, with repayments spread over 40 years. But graduates in the highest income brackets will pay £20,000 less as the progressive elements of the existing loan package are stripped away.

As the cost of living in the UK continues to increase rapidly year on year, those repaying their university loans also find that they are faced with an annual increase in student debt. Sonic Jobs conducted this study to reveal which degrees have the potential to pay back their entire student loan, as well as to find insights into which university degrees will not ever repay their entire debt.

  • Nursing graduates will still be paying off their loans by the end of the 30 year cut off

  • Dentistry graduates will pay off their loan the quickest in an average of 16 years

  • Veterinary Medicine graduates can repay their loan in an average of 19 years

  • Medicine graduates can repay their loan in an average of 23 years

  • Less Than 18% of UK Graduates Repay Their Student Debt

  • Counselling degrees only pay an average of £20,719 after 5 years of work. Followed by Social Work at £22,276 and Ecology making £23,066 after working for half a decade.

The Highest Paying Degrees

On average, it takes graduates who actually repay back their student loans in full 29.5 years to complete their repayments. Even so, most graduates never repay their entire student loan, working for 30 years at which point the debt is wiped. Dentistry is the highest paying profession following a degree, with an average starting salary of £59000. Dentists can expect to repay their student loan quicker than any other profession, within 16 years, assuming an average 3% yearly increase in salary. Veterinary medicine is a close second with another high starting salary, earning an average of £52000 per year within the first year of graduating from university. Medicine graduates, such as doctors, will find that their initial pay grade will depend upon a number of factors, including location and specialisation. On average, those who study medicine can expect to earn £46231.50 for their first year of work. With an annual wage increase of 3% per year, those within this field can expect to pay their student loan off within 23 years.

Highest paid degrees

Average Starting Salary

Years Loan is Repaid in

Dentistry

£59,000

16

Veterinary medicine

£52,500

19

Medicine

£46,231.50

23

The Degrees That Don’t Pay Off

Counselling degrees only pay an average of £20,719 after 5 years of work. Followed by Social Work at £22,276 and Ecology making £23,066 after working for half a decade.

Most degrees will never pay off their student debt in full, but there are certain degrees that never get anywhere near to full repayments. As current graduates don’t start making loan repayments until they meet the £27,295 threshold, the lowest paid degrees won’t be making any loan repayments after 5 years of work.

The top 10 lowest paid degrees earn an average of £22854.5 after 5 years, meaning these graduates are set to pay back very little compared to the higher earning university degrees.

Lowest Paid UK Degrees

Annual Salary after 5 Years

Counselling

£20,719

Social Work

£22,276

Ecology

£23,066

Pharmacy

£23,462

Nursing

£24,132

Italian

£24,425

Social Sciences

£24,602

Criminology

£24,808

Art

£24,862

English Language

£24,990

Less Than 18% of UK Graduates Repay Their Student Debt

With 761,215 people graduating from UK universities annually, only 42,819 of graduates, less than 18%, pay off their student debt. As under a fifth of graduates ever pay their loans off in full, we can see there is a huge pay gap between different professions, with some of the most important roles seeing a reduction in applicants annually.

Mikhil Raja, CEO & Co-founder of Sonic Jobs commented:

We have uncovered that 82% of university graduates never repay their loans in full. As graduates studying for the lowest-earning degrees earn a salary beneath the repayment threshold for at least half a decade after graduation, jobs in sectors such as counselling, social work and nursing receive the lowest annual pay nationally, in the most challenging of industries. With student debt interest rates leaping from 4.5% in 2021 to 12% in 2022, this is the highest rate tuition fees have been at since 2012. Combining this with the drastic upwards spike in the cost of living, the number of students once choosing to study for the most important of roles, such as healthcare, is set to decline rapidly.

To find out more about Sonic Jobs, see their website here.