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Revealed: Occupations with the highest average pay increases since 2021 – how does your job’s salary compare to the UK average?

Last Updated on: 15th April 2024, 02:23 pm

New analysis of ONS earning figures by HR software provider Ciphr shows that just one in four (26%) full-time occupations in the UK has seen their hourly wages grow faster than inflation since 2021.

In the 24 months to April 2023, the UK’s inflation rate averaged 7.8% a year* – a cumulative increase of 16.2%. While inflation has now fallen significantly, many people will likely be feeling the squeeze on their wages for some time to come.

Particularly when most (74%) UK job roles have actually seen real terms pay cuts because cumulative inflation (of 16.2%) has outpaced any reported pay rises.

Ciphr compared average median hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for over 350 full-time occupations in 2021, 2022 and 2023 (the most recent figures available from the UK’s Office for National Statistics) to see how different professions’ wages fared versus inflation. They found that just 90 job roles (26% of those with data available) reported strong, inflation-beating salary growth of 16.2% or more between 2021 and 2023.

Some (10%) occupations even saw hourly rate rises of 30% or more.

Top 10 jobs with the highest average pay rises

Among the occupations with the highest increases in hourly wages were PR and communications directors (people employed in this role saw their wages increase by £8.62 per hour, on average, since 2021), senior officers in fire, ambulance, prison and related services (+£6.90), and IT directors (+£6.38). The next highest were financial managers and directors (+£5.83), and web design professionals (+£5.31). All these job roles saw their average basic salary rise by over £10,000 a year (between 2021 and 2023).

That’s significantly higher than the average median raise awarded to a typical full-time UK employee since 2021. The average worker received a more modest 11.8% pay bump – with the hourly rate increasing by £1.83 to £17.40 (which works out to a basic salary of around £33,930 a year). This is the average pay increase for the median or ‘middle’ employee, so millions of workers will earn less than this amount, just as millions will earn more.

Top 10 jobs for inflation-beating wage increases since 2021 (ranked by monetary growth) are:

OccupationBasic salary (2023)Increase in hourly rate (since 2021)
PR and communications directors£82,076£8.6225.8%
Senior officers in fire, ambulance, prison and related services£53,255£6.9033.8%
IT directors£80,204£6.3818.4%
Financial managers and directors£71,175£5.8319.0%
Web design professionals£43,349£5.3131.4%
Publicans and managers of licensed premises£29,484£4.1738.1%
Assemblers (vehicles and metal goods)£29,952£4.1036.4%
Production managers and directors in manufacturing£51,636£3.8917.2%
Social services managers and directors£44,870£3.7919.7%
Newspaper and periodical journalists and reporters£38,532£3.7823.7%

Other occupations that also received high wage increases (in percentage terms at least) include catering and bar managers (+31% pay growth since 2021), bar staff (+31%), bar and catering supervisors (+29%), chefs (+28%), hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors (+27%), waiters and waitresses (+25%), and hairdressers and barbers (+25%).

Despite the double-digit, inflation-beating salary hikes that many of these job roles received, however, they all still pay below the UK’s average hourly rate of £17.40. So, in real terms, cost of living pressures have probably swallowed any tangible wage gains.

Jobs with the biggest ‘real terms’ pay cuts

The majority (94%) of occupations (with available earnings data) did receive pay rises between 2021 and 2023. But many of these raises didn’t keep up with inflation.

Three-quarters (74%) of full-time occupations actually saw a drop in real-terms pay in 2023, as their salary increases since 2021, if any, came in below cumulative inflation (of 16.2%).

Occupational groups that fared among the worst with salary increases, on average (based on ONS figures) were clinical psychologists (-22% pay cut since 2021), cyber security professionals (-14%), other education professionals, including university administrators and bursars (-9.4%), legal professionals, including legal advisers, notaries and paralegals (-8.8%), electronics engineers (-7.2%), generalist medical practitioners, including GPs and hospital doctors (-6.7%), arts officers, producers and directors (-2.9%), and taxation experts (-1%).

How well does your job pay?

Try Ciphr’s salary checker (featuring over 350 occupations) to see how your job’s pay compares to the UK average:

Ciphr is the go-to HR software and solutions partner for medium and large organisations in the UK. Its integrated HR, payroll, learning and recruitment software, services and content provide invaluable insights to HR teams to inform their people strategy and grow and develop their organisations. Based in Reading, Ciphr is on a mission to amplify the voice and value of HR through intelligent people data solutions that help HR be heard – in the boardroom and across the business.

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