An independent report has revealed that chemistry and physics graduates in the UK earn more than graduates from most other disciplines, exploding the myth that studying science is not financially rewarding.
According to the Pricewaterhouse Coopers report, a graduate in chemistry or physics earns around £187,000 more during their career than someone with A Levels but no degree, whereas history and English graduates increase their earnings by only about half as much.
Commissioned jointly by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics, the report also demonstrates that chemistry and physics graduates pay approximately £135,000 more in tax than those with A Levels and £40,000 more than the average graduate during their working lives.
The report comes a few weeks ahead of a House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee enquiry into the provision of strategically important subjects at English universities, and following the University of Exeter’s decision to close its chemistry department in order to balance its books, and Newcastle University’s decision to stop teaching undergraduate physics.
The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics today joined forces to urge the Government to change the way universities in the UK are funded. This report underlines the need for the funding of strategically important subjects at UK universities to reflect the real cost of teaching each undergraduate.
The PWC report shows that physics and chemistry graduates earn 30% more during their working lifetime than those with A Levels but no degree. Importantly, physics and chemistry degree-holders earn more than almost any other subject. In comparison, biological sciences, linguistics, and history graduates earn only 13-16% more.
According to the report, graduates in chemistry and physics earn about £187,000 more than someone with 2 or more A Levels but no degree, whereas history and English graduates earn only £89,000 – £92,000 more. It also shows that the financial benefit of completing a degree is much greater for women than for men, due in part to the relatively low earnings of non-graduate women.
President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Dr. Simon Campbell, said today: “We are delighted that this independent report confirms the very points we have made many times to government. We have known for a long time that careers in physics and chemistry are personally rewarding since these skilled scientists make so many contributions to our everyday lives. Now we have independent evidence that the financial rewards of studying physics and chemistry are significantly more attractive to the individual and the UK than for most other disciplines.”
“It is also rewarding to the country as a whole. Physics and the chemical sciences bring economic rewards to the country doubly – through the taxes graduates pay and by the vast contribution that they make to the wealth of the nation through industry.”
“We will be pressing the Government to acknowledge the value of these subjects and this report is a vital tool in helping us convince them that the science base in the UK must be safeguarded. It is also tangible evidence that we can employ in marketing chemistry and physics to Britain’s young people.”
Dr. David Giachardi, RSC chief executive, concluded: “The taxman should be very concerned about universities not cherishing chemistry and physics while undergraduates in those areas will be looking forward to being ahead of the field financially for the rest of their lives after graduating.”
Professor Peter Main, Director of Education at the Institute of Physics said: “It costs on average £21,000 to teach an undergraduate over the course of a degree programme. Although physics and chemistry are expensive to teach, graduates in these two subjects contribute £40,000 more than the average graduate in tax to the Exchequer because they earn so much more over their lifetime. If physics and chemistry departments in the UK continue to close and the number of undergraduate places in these subjects declines, then the nation will lose out. In the long-run, it would be far cheaper to safe-guard these departments from closure.”