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Study Reveals Which Top Paying Careers Earn The Most

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Taking into account the personal costs of training, education and licence fees, Standout CV can reveal the roles that will earn workers the most in the first 20 years of their careers

  • Financial managers and PR directors reach 6 figure salaries the fastest, taking the average worker just 18 years to £100,000 or more

  • Prior to COVID, new pilots would earn a total of £1,132,500 within 20 years of starting, this is now estimated to have dropped to £924,500

  • Police officers earn more than any other role for the first 15 years of their service

  • CEOs have the second-highest average salary but debts and other costs see them earn the 4th most of the jobs analysed

  • See which roles earn the most in the first 20 years here

Taking into account the impact of COVID on the airline industry, the table below shows the average earnings for each of the top-paying roles analysed over a 20-year career, less training and education costs.


5 Years

10 Years

15 Years

20 Years






Financial Manager





PR Director





Senior Police Officer










Marketing Director





IT Director








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Hospital Doctor







The roles that pay the most in the first 20 years

According to the latest ONS data, the 10 highest paying roles in the UK earn an average of £71,000 per year, with pilots reporting an average salary of £92,330 and CEOs £85,239.

Taking into account the personal costs of training, education and licence fees, Standout CV can reveal the roles that will earn workers the most in the first 20 years of their careers.

Over the course of 20 years, pilots were found to accumulate the most earnings of the top-paying roles, cashing a total of £1.13 million. However, within the first 5 years of their career, the average pilot makes a net loss of £70,000 due to the cost of qualifications and other fees.

The second-highest earning role over the course of 20 years is financial manager, earning those that follow it as a career choice as much as £1.1 million; with a net gain of £99,000 within the first 5 years. This is due to a degree not being required to start a finance career and many top firms moving away from this as a requirement and, instead, offering vocational training.

Rounding off the top 5 earning careers, Standout CV’s analysis found that PR directors amass £939,722 of earnings, over 20 years, senior police officers will earn £916,279, and CEOs £807,722.

It might seem surprising to see CEOs earning less than senior police officers and other top-paying careers. However, the study found most CEOs start their career within graduate sales positions, with varying degrees of student debt and volatility of earnings through their career paths. 

For medical professionals, the choice can be whether to work in a community setting or a hospital environment. According to Standout CV’s analysis, those who become GPs will earn more over 20 years than those who work in a hospital environment, with GPs earning an average of £636,615 across 20 years whilst hospital doctors earn £592,105 across the same period.

However, this disparity between the GPs and hospital doctors reverses by the 24th year in the profession, with those working in hospitals earning more than their GP counterparts. 

 Training and qualification costs for the top 10 paying careers

Standout CVs analysis into the training and qualification fees for the top paying careers found pilots to have the largest outlay of any analysed. Spending an average of £95,000 to earn their badges, pilots spend almost £15,000 more than any other career in fees and qualifications.

The career with the second-highest costs is doctoring. Both general practitioners and hospital-based doctors have an average qualification cost of £80,556. However, as already mentioned, their levels of earnings do diverge over the course of 20 years.


Cost of training and other fees





Marketing Director


IT Director




Financial Manager


PR Director




Hospital Doctor


Senior Police Officer



With internal training provided by the police force, and a degree not needed, the career path of a senior police officer was found to have no entry or training costs. This lack of costs helping make it the highest paying career for the first 10 years, as other careers pay off and accrue training costs.

Andrew Fennell, director and careers expert at Standout CV comments:

“According to the latest ONS data used in our study, the 10 highest paying roles in the UK pay an average of £71,000. However, as our study also shows the career path is never simple when it comes to earnings.”

“If you’re just starting or thinking about a new career, it’s important to consider the costs that could be involved in breaking into a new job market and career; be that through educational courses, professional training, or even licence fees, there are plenty of commitments you must understand before starting a new career.”

“As our study shows, many of the top-paying roles in the UK require high fees to be paid to get a foot in the door, which for many could be both a deterrent and worry for those from less privileged backgrounds. It’s positive to see that such a key service like the police force provides free training and a salary that competes with other high-paid careers like CEOs and financial managers.”

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