Tuesday 24 April 2018

Pick a well-paid career to start off on the best financial foot

Studying to become an accountant, computer programmer, solicitor or retail manager could be a fantastic future investment, writes Louise McBride

Careful research of the most suitable career options can pay off in later life. Stock image
Careful research of the most suitable career options can pay off in later life. Stock image
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

Jobs in accountancy, retail management, computer programming, law and science are amongst some of the best paid in the country - and so amongst the careers which should be seriously considered by the Leaving Cert students who receive their results this Wednesday. Although these 56,000 students must wait until August 21 to find out if they have enough points to secure entry to various courses, the results received this week should give them a good idea of the career choices open to them.

Money isn't everything, but choosing a career with good financial prospects can lead to a very comfortable life - and eliminate problems which might be experienced with a poorly paid job (such as debt, and difficulties getting a mortgage or paying bills). So salary - particularly over the long term - should be a key consideration when choosing a career path. So too should the ability to secure a job in a particular field - so this year's Leaving Cert students should choose a college course which will equip them with skills likely to be in demand when they graduate.

So which jobs are likely to pay most - and which skills are expected to be in high demand - when this year's Leaving Cert students graduate in three to four years' time?


Jobs in accountancy and financial management have the lowest starting salaries - with a typical graduate earning €24,554 when fresh out of college, according to gradireland's latest graduate salary survey. (The average starter salary for a graduate is around €28,500.)

However, it's important to look at the big picture - once you build up experience and establish a career in accountancy and financial management, you should be able to secure a much higher salary. For example, a financial accountant with five years experience could expect a salary of as much as €75,000, according to the latest salary survey from Hays Ireland. The same survey found that a financial director (a more senior role which requires considerable experience) of a public sector company with a turnover of €100m or more could expect a salary of up to €150,000.

"Long-term, jobs in accountancy and financial management would have highly lucrative salaries," said Ruairi Kavanagh, editor of gradireland. "These jobs have very structured career paths. There are good prospects in terms of what you can do with a qualification in accountancy or financial management - and where you can go internationally with such a qualification."

There is currently a strong demand for accountancy and finance graduates - with almost one in four of the jobs on offer to graduates within accountancy and financial management, according to gradireland. "There are never enough auditors for the number of opportunities available," said Siobhan O'Shea, client services director with the recruitment firm, CPL. "Also, companies are looking at their commercial growth, given we're firmly out of recession and in our third consecutive year of growth. So we're likely to see a continued demand for commercial accountants and financial analysts in the next few years."

Those with skills or qualifications in actuarial data and data analytics can also expect to be in high demand in four years' time, said O'Shea.

Retail manager

A career in retail can pay well - as long as you get into a senior role. It is the retail and sales sector which currently has the highest starter salaries for graduates, according to gradireland's survey.

One of the main reasons that average starting salaries for a retail job is high is because the pay for retail management positions can be strong.

For example, Lidl recently advertised a job for an area manager which had a starting salary of €67,750, rising to €96,000 after five years. Other perks of that job included a fully-expensed company car, pension and private health insurance. Both Lidl and Aldi have relatively well-paid graduate programmes which are designed to help graduates build up retail management skills. Graduates who secure a place on Aldi's area manager graduate recruitment programme for example start on a salary of €61,000 - and this salary rises to €97,700 after four years. The starting salary on Lidl's programme is €36,400.

Not all retail jobs are well paid. Pay for shop assistant and cashier jobs can be very low - with job perks (such as company cars, and pensions) often non-existent. The particular area of retail that you go into can also determine how well you're paid. Area managers working in a forecourt or high-street fashion store for example can expect to earn a lot less than their counterparts in a large grocery multiple, according to CPL.


There are already many well-paid opportunities in the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. Employers cited software and computer development abilities (in particular, development languages such as PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS and Java) as skills they expect there to be a high demand for in the coming years, according to gradireland's latest survey.

There is currently strong demand for computer programmers who can write object-oriented code (such as Java, C++ and C#), according to Kavanagh. Together with a high salary, such programmers can expect to secure good job perks, such as gym membership, private health insurance, generous holiday allowances, flexible working arrangements and free food.

"Some tech skills are so in demand that it's very hard to recruit and retain these people, especially those with object-oriented code," said Kavanagh. "So companies are willing to go the extra mile to get people with these skills."

Having a STEM qualification and a language could boost your earning potential. "Employers are also looking for technical nous combined with a foreign language - particularly in the R&D and engineering fields," said the gradireland report.

There has been an increase in the number of jobs on offer in science, medical devices, pharmaceutical and R&D, according to gradireland. You can expect a significant jump in salary within four years of being in a STEM job.

"Graduates with a background in robotics, nanotechnology and biochemicals are likely to be in strong demand [in four years' time]," said O'Shea. "We're seeing professionals with between three and four years experience garnering salaries of €65,000 and upwards in those fields."

At €27,289, typical starter salaries in engineering are below the average for graduates. However, software, chemical or mechanical engineer could expect to be earning €60,000 within three to four years of starting a job in that field, according to O'Shea.

"Software, chemical and mechanical engineers are in really high demand," said O'Shea. "There's likely to be strong continued demand for architects and engineers in the next few years, especially in light of the housing shortages for the population growth expected in the next 10 years."


Law can be a highly lucrative career. A partner in a law firm could earn as much as €200,000 while an experienced solicitor could earn up to €120,000, according to CPL. Starting salaries for law graduates are also higher than average.

The number of graduate jobs available in law is low, however. Law accounts for 2.6pc of the proportion of available jobs, according to gradireland. "This indicates the levels of competition which graduates can expect when applying for these roles," said the gradireland report.

Of course competition shouldn't put you off - and may well be worth it in the long run.

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