If you get a first in college you’ll earn almost £8,000 more a year than a 2:2

Students graduating from university with a first class degree earn £7,900 more per year than those with a lower second class grade within five years of completing the course.

Graduating with a high class degree makes a big difference to earning potential in the early years of a career, according to a report by think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, commissioned by the Department of Education.

Those with a 2:2 degree in 2013 earned £3,800 less than those who received a 2:1 degree, the report found.

The difference in earnings between earning a higher and lower second grade is much larger than the gap between earning a first and a 2:1 for all degrees, said Jack Britton of the IFS and a report author.

“For many test subjects, the difference between a first and a 2:1 is not even important for the earnings. However, for others, such as economics, law, business, computer science and pharmacology, it is significant,” he said.

Earning a lower second-class degree, rather than a higher second-class degree, costs graduates 15 percent of their future earnings for those studying law or economics. However, there is no significant difference for those who study education or English, which often leads to lower paying jobs.

Grades can have a greater impact on future earnings than university excellence. Those who got a 2:2 from a highly selective university, such as Oxford, Cambridge or the London School of Economics, could have gotten a better paying job if they had attended a slightly less prestigious university and achieved a 2:1.

However, there is a 20 percent fine at age 30 for men and women who graduate with a 2:2 of the most selective schools.

Final grades also have less influence on women’s wages. Men in their 20s who got a scoop typically earn 7 percent more than if they got 2:1, but women earn just 4 percent more.

The payout of higher grades drops to nearly zero for women at the top universities, while male graduates with a first-class degree earned 14 percent more than those with a higher second.

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