Secondary school headteachers have largest gap between perceived and actual pay


Secondary school headteachers are perceived to earn £50,000 a year, compared to their actual average annual salary of £76,192, according to research by Oxford Open Learning.

Its survey of 2,043 adults also found that train drivers, excluding London Underground drivers, are perceived to earn £32,000 a year, which is 32% less than their average take-home pay of £47,000.

NHS general practitioners (GP), members of Parliament (MP), and HR managers also all had their pay levels underestimated by respondents. The research found that GPs are perceived to earn £65,000 compared to their actual pay of £69,514 (-7%), MPs are estimated to take home £70,000 a year compared to the £74,962 that they actually earn (-7%), and HR managers earn £38,127 compared to a perceived salary of £35,000 (-8%).

At the other end of the scale, respondents overestimated journalists pay by 28%, with a perceived salary is £30,000 a year compared to actual annual earnings of £23,500. Plumbers are also estimated to earn £30,000, however, this is 21% higher than their actual annual pay of £24,746. Meanwhile, solicitors’ perceived salary of £60,000 a year is £10,000 more than their average pay figure, representing an overestimation of 20%.

Hairdressers, retail assistants and florists are also all perceived to earn more than they do, with discrepancies of 16%, 14% and 13% respectively. Hairdressers earn an average of £15,473 a year compared to respondents’ estimated £18,000, retail assistants have an average take-home pay of £13,122 compared to a perceived £15,000, and florists earn £15,926 a year, on average, rather than respondents’ perceived £18,000.

Other roles where misconceptions exist around salary include teachers (overestimation of 8%), chief executives (overestimation of 5%), and those working in administration (overestimation of 4%).

However, there is only a 0.26% difference between the actual and perceived pay of NHS nurses, with perceived pay recorded at £25,000 a year and actual average annual earnings of £24,936.

Dr Nick Smith (pictured), courses director and founder at Oxford Open Learning Trust, said: “A previous study we carried out found that money is the biggest motivator behind changing careers, following by better working hours and personal interest. However, the results of this survey show Brits are overestimating the salaries earned by many professions.

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“Among British [employees], over half (52%) said that salary was an important factor when they chose their current job role. When it came to choosing a new career or job role, this figure increased to 68%, suggesting that monetary incentives are key for choosing a new career.

“Changing careers seems to pay off; over a third of British [employees] polled (34%) that had moved to a new job role said they had an increase in salary after the first year of their new career.”