Ever wondered which are the best paid jobs in the UK and what it is like to have one of them? The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released its Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2014, so we have taken a look at what you need to land one of the top 10 jobs, and asked people who do them to tell us about the best and worst bits of their working lives.
The survey shows the average (mean) salary of a sample of employed workers who carry out these occupations. The data is taken from their PAYE record – it includes bonuses, but the figures do not cover the self-employed or celebrities who don’t appear on company payrolls.
So, which job attracts the highest pay, which is the most fun, and which, in the words of its spokesman, means you’re seen by colleagues as a “pain in the backside”?
1. Head of a company or organisation
Includes: CEOs and presidents leading organisations of more than 500 people
Average pay before tax: £107,703
Pay range: £25,953 (10th percentile) to £136,779 (80th percentile). Median is £75,237.
Annual change: -8.4%
Best part of the job: Telling everyone else what to do, obviously. Or, as Michael Bruce, the CEO of online estate agent Purplebricks.com, puts it: “Inspiring people to realise their potential.”
Worst part of the job: “Too many meetings,” says John Styring, the CEO of Igloo Books. “Unnecessary admin,” says Neil Everatt, the CEO of the business software company Software Europe. “Making tough decisions,” says Bruce.
How to get there: “Typical requirements are an MBA, 30 years of experience and/or advantageous family connections,” says Sam Cropper, the CEO of Climatecars, an eco-friendly taxi company. “But all I had, when I became CEO at the age of 29, was a drive for progression and a positive outlook on life.” Everatt agrees: “Qualifications are not important – it’s all about experience and attitude.”
2. Aircraft pilots
pilot best paying job 2014
‘Getting paid to have your head in the clouds.’ Photograph: CTC Wings
Includes: Flight engineers and flying instructors
Average pay before tax: £90,146
Pay range: £66,178 (25th percentile) to £97,598 (60th percentile). Median is £90,534.
Annual change: +12.5%
Best part of the job: Getting paid to have your head in the clouds. “Whatever the weather is like on the ground, it’s always fantastic above the ground – and not many people in the world get to see the view that we do,” says Iain Edwards, a Monarch Airlines pilot.
Worst part of the job: Safety checks in all weathers. “It not fun having to do a pre-flight aircraft walk-around check when it’s blowing a gale and tipping with rain,” says Edwards.
How to get there: Learn to fly a commercial aircraft. That means being accepted on to a training course. “The basic entry criteria for our programme is a minimum of five GCSEs, and fluency in English,” says Karen Bath, spokeswoman for pilot training school CTC Aviation. Training to be a pilot is, however, very expensive – the British Airline Pilots Association says it can cost £100,000 and starting salaries can be less than £23,000.
3. Marketing directors
Includes: Sales directors
Average pay before tax: £82,962
Pay range: £16,959 (10th percentile) to £103,871 (80th percentile). Median is £66,452.
Annual change: -2.4%
Best part of the job: Launching new things. “That’s when everything comes together – innovation, customer insight, creativity, communications and sales – and you get to demonstrate how these different elements work together, to create value and growth for a business,” says Gemma Greaves, MD of the Marketing Society, a networking club for marketing directors.
Worst part of the job: Balancing what everyone in the company wants. “Juggling multiple stakeholders who all have strong and different opinions on what marketing should or shouldn’t be doing is the worst task,” says Dan Roche, marketing director for IT and telecoms firm Olive Communications.
How to get there: Most marketing directors have degrees, but these don’t have to be in marketing or business. Many start off as graduate trainees at a large company and learn on the job.
4. Information technology directors
Includes: Telecommunications directors and CIOs
Average pay before tax: £80,215
Pay range: £24,266 (10th percentile) to £83,023 (75th percentile). Median is £61,423.
Annual change: +23.7%
Best part of the job: Seeing a firm’s use of IT make a difference to its standing. “Successful IT directors help a business to understand how IT can be a differentiator for the organisation, and used to increase market share,” says Ewen Ferguson, the director at IT consultancy Protiviti.
Worst part of the job: Dealing with colleagues who don’t understand IT. “IT leaders get beaten up when things don’t work but often can’t secure budget that would prevent the incidents from occurring. For many IT leaders, it feels like a losing battle,” says Ferguson.
How to get there: “The larger roles will typically require a combination of experience and a relevant degree,” says Jos Creese, president of BCS, the Chartered Institute of IT. “Often an MBA is helpful.”
5. Financial institution directors
Includes: Heads of banks and building societies
Average pay before tax: £78,782
Pay range: £24,255 (10th percentile) to £102,749 (80th percentile). Median is £50,032.
Annual change: +7.2%
Best part of the job: Having the power to change the world – albeit by lending money to people. “I love to see the positive impact the huge variety of organisations we work with are having on people and the world around them,” says Charles Middleton, the MD of Triodos Bank, which only lends to and invests in organisations that benefit people and the environment.
Worst part of the job: “Dealing with any situation where people are taking advantage of the bank or using the bank for their own purposes: fraud, for example,” says Middleton.
How to get there: “Have a background in banking or the financial sector, especially at the moment, with so many regulatory aspects to contend with,” he says.
6. Public relations directors
Includes: Advertising directors and heads of press offices
Average pay before tax: £77,619
Pay range: Unknown (no reliable data was collected by the ONS).
Annual change: +23.8%
Best part of the job: Having your finger on the pulse and, in some roles, travel. “Much of my day-to-day work involves having a global perspective on up-and-coming trends and new brand launches; this means I often travel to fun places like Brazil, Singapore and New York,” says Sarah White, PR director at Halpern, a London-based PR agency.
Worst part of the job: “Being the last to be told,” says Andy Ross, spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. “When you are the guardian of an organisation’s reputation, being advised of a developing situation at a late stage can be frustrating.”
What you need to get there: A degree that encourages clear communication and analytical thinking, such as English or Law, is favoured over people with degrees in PR, communications and marketing, says Jamie McLaughlin, MD of PR recruitment firm Capstone Hill. But what’s most important, says White, is a passion for design, writing or branding.
7. Financial managers and directors
Includes: Chief financial officers (CFOs)
Average pay before tax: £76,320
Pay range: £16,963 (10th percentile) to £97,211 (80th percentile).
Annual change: -0.9%
Best part of the job: Getting involved with everything. “You get a great overview of the business and that means you can really have an impact and help the business to do something constructive, that makes a tangible difference,” says Stephen Ibbotson, spokesperson for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
Worst part of the job: “People hate budgeting. It’s a pretty thankless task. Everyone thinks you’re a pain in the backside,” says Ibbotson.
How to get there: A lot of managers have a degree but Ibbotson says you don’t need to have one. You will, however, need to pass professional accountancy exams.
8. Air traffic controllers
air traffic controller
Fewer than 1% of applicants are accepted. Photograph: National Air Traffic Control Services
Average pay before tax: £75,416
Pay range: £54,449 (25th percentile) to £84,209 (60th percentile). Median is £78,602.
Annual change: +9.3%
Best part of the job: Sending planes into the air. “Working in departures is my favourite task,” says Ady Dolan, a National Air Traffic Control Services (Nats) air traffic controller at Heathrow. The work is fast-paced and meaningful: “In an hour-long session, you can clear 45 to 55 aircraft for take-off, and ensure that thousands of people are safely en route to their destinations.”
Worst part of the job: “Poor weather, such as fog, snow, or strong winds can make our lives very difficult,” says Dolan. Even when the weather improves, he says, “the recovery stage can pose quite a challenge as the floodgates open!”
How to get there: Academically, you need to be over 18 and have at least five GCSEs. You then need to pass a series of competency tests and interviews – fewer than 1% of applicants to the Nats training course are accepted each year.
9. Rail engineers
Includes: Aircraft engineers, ship and hovercraft officers, and other transport professionals
Average pay before tax: £74,402
Pay range: £40,490 (20th percentile) to £98,507 (75th percentile). Median is £72,663.
Annual change: +7.5%
Best part of the job: “The chance to indulge in childhood dreams,” says John Jeffers, principal engineer for railway infrastructure firm BCS Design. “As rail engineers we get access to interesting and historical structures and infrastructure that the general public would never normally have the chance to visit.”
Worst part of the job: “There can be a lot of repetitive tasks associated with infrastructure projects, such as signalling renewals and route works,” says Jeffers.
How to get there: A typical rail engineer has a BSc or MSc in engineering, which is a prerequisite to gaining the critical chartered engineer (CEng) status. “Being accredited as a chartered engineer enables you to progress to higher level rail engineer roles with greater responsibilities. The status is mandatory for many of the key roles on a design and delivery project team,” adds Jeffers.
10. Company lawyers
Includes: Patent attorneys
Average pay before tax: £73,425
Pay range: unknown (no reliable data was collected by the ONS).
Annual change: +7.5%
Best part of the job: The diversity of the work, according to the Law Society. “You gain a commercial understanding and get involved in significant matters at a much earlier stage of your career as a lawyer,” it said.
Worst part of the job: “Picking up other people’s dropped balls and sorting out other departments’ problems, and rarely getting praised for saving the day,” says Georgina Stanley, editor of Legal Week. “You need humility and a thick skin to succeed as an in-house lawyer.”
How to get there: An undergraduate degree, post-graduate law qualifications and “an ability to appear to be a master of everything that might incur legal costs”, says Stanley.
The pay range stated is the broadest available as reliable data was not consistently collected by the ONS for the 10th and 90th percentiles.