A study found that over an average lifespan of 76 years, we will spend over 21% of our total waking hours at work. Over a 50-year working life, starting at the age of 18, we will spend over a third of our waking hours working – that's a lot of time.
It makes sense that all of us would like to be compensated well for the hours we put in over our lifetime, but the reality is that some careers and jobs earn more than others and not all of us will work the best-paid jobs.
Talking about salaries and compensation packages can be a taboo subject, but now we may have some insight into the most lucrative jobs in the UK. Glassdoor analysed national average salary data to find the highest paying jobs in the UK.
Whether you're just about to start your working career and are exploring which jobs pay the best, or looking to have a career change, here is some information that could help you make your decision.
It should come as no surprise that many of the highest paying jobs in the UK involve chief executives or senior management positions. The highest-paid job in the UK is Chief Financial Officer, with an average salary of £124,410. Executive Director follows it at number two with £121,345, and Chief Operating Officer at number three with £108,303.
Rounding off the top 10 list, we have perhaps a surprise addition, Of Counsel at number eight with £77,910. At number nine, we have the role of a Senior Leader with a salary of £76,606 and a Quantitative Analyst at number 10 with £73,353. These numbers only take into account the basic salary, with performance-based bonus packages most likely increasing these numbers by a considerable amount. Let's dive into the complete list.
1. Chief Financial Officer - £124,410 per year
Topping this list is a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). In the UK, the average pay for a Chief Financial Officer is £124,410, with a high of £214,739 and a low of £72,078.
A Chief Financial Officer is the highest-ranking financial position someone can reach within a company. The CFO's primary duty is to ensure the financial health of a business. The Chief Financial Officer's tasks involve overseeing all company financial planning and analysis, tracking cash flow, ensuring that its revenues and expenses stay within balance, creating budgets for the company, and verifying and validating financial reports.
As a C-suite executive, the CFO oversees all the other financial managers at the company and also works closely with every other department in the business. They work mainly with the CEO as they will work closely on the firm's overall strategy, as well as consulting with the firm's board of directors. In addition, CFOs are often seen as visionaries with a keen eye on the future and, as such, are considered leaders – not only in terms of expertise but also with people.
To become a Chief Financial Officer, clearly, you will need a degree in either finance, accounting, or a related subject, as well as certifications in the field such as accounting. However, more than that, you will need to have at least 10 years of experience in the field and have a proven track record of making sound financial decisions, as well as being a people person and knowing how to lead.
2. Executive Director - £121,345 per year
Following closely behind at number two is an Executive Director, with an average salary of £121,345. An Executive Director can earn as high as £205,128 but also as low as £71,782.
An Executive Director is a senior position within the company where the person is a member of the board but also an employee with a senior role. A board will typically have more than one Executive Director, for instance, one for each department. An Executive Director's role is to assist the CEO with business strategies to help grow and improve the business both financially and structurally and also be at the forefront of implementing these strategies.
To become an Executive Director, you will be expected to have a degree in business, business management, or related – usually a Master in Business Administration (MBA). You will also be expected to have at least a minimum of 10+ years of experience in management, where you have been able to show an ability to manage people effectively, create strategies to help the business, and spearhead the implementation of these strategies.
3. Chief Operating Officer - £108,303 per year
At number three is a Chief Operating Officer, with an average salary of £108,303 per year. They can earn as high as £204,153 and a low of £57,454.
A Chief Operating Officer (COO) is the highest-ranking position that is responsible for the operations of a company. The COO is involved with optimising the day-to-day activities of a business and deals with the administrative things behind the scenes, such as policies, procedures, project management, etc. Whilst a CEO is more responsible for devising strategy and business goals, it is the Chief Operating Officer's job to ensure that these goals and strategies are implemented in the most efficient and effective ways possible.
As with a C-suite and executive position, an MBA is expected, as well as a minimum of 10 years of experience in an operations-related role where you have proved your business awareness and understanding. Moreover, strong leadership skills are a must for this role. They will be working very closely with various department heads, ensuring processes are working smoothly.
4. Managing Partner - £107,589 per year
A Managing Partner in the UK can expect to earn an average salary of £107,589. At the extreme high-end, they can earn as much as £209,727 but can also make as low as £55,193.
The Managing Partner of a firm has a vital role to play. They are responsible for setting business objectives, monitoring company performance against these objectives, helping to manage the day-to-day activities that drive business growth, maintaining positive client relationships, and driving new acquisitions. In that sense, there is considerable overlap between a Chief Operating Officer's role and a Managing Partner's role, but the COO has more overall oversight of the company.
Typically, Managing Partners have a business and/or management degree – usually, a Bachelor's degree will suffice – and a wealth of experience to fall back on. They have incredible analytical skills, sound decision-making skills and are able to organise and push a team to reach objectives.
5. Chief Executive Officer - £99,424 per year
Rounding off the top five highest paid jobs is a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with an average salary of £99,242. A CEO can earn as high as £246,868 or as low as £40,042 in the UK.
The CEO is the highest-ranking individual in a company and has a tremendous amount of responsibility on their shoulders. They are responsible for the overall success of a business, and although they often ask for advice from other C-suite executives, they have the final say on all decisions. CEOs work closely with the board of directors on overall company objectives, strategies, and operations, and as the face of the company, also have to address external stakeholders regularly.
It goes without saying that a CEO must have strong leadership skills in order to be the figurehead of a company and strong communication skills. In terms of professional qualification, a business degree will almost certainly be necessary, as well as 10+ years of experience working in senior management.
6. Director - £93,451 per year
At number six, we have the position of a company Director, with an average salary of £93,451, going up as high as £168,382 and as low as £51,865.
We don't mean a Director as in for films and movies, we mean a Director of a business. They are responsible for planning and executing company strategies and ensuring compliance both legally and financially. In some cases, they are also seen as a spokesperson for the company toward its shareholders.
For this role, an MBA isn't necessary, but it may be desired. However, a business degree will certainly be required and 15+ years of experience. Alongside this, Directors are expected to be strong leaders, have excellent communication and people skills, and be analytically minded.
7. Enterprise Architect - £82,270 per year
Following at number seven is the role of an Enterprise Architect. The average salary of an Enterprise Architect is £82,270, going as high as £120,252 and as low as £56,285.
It's the first position on this list that is not a senior-level management position. Instead, an Enterprise Architect is involved in a company's IT team. They ensure that the business's IT infrastructure, network, and services are well-maintained and running smoothly. They oversee the systems, software, programs, applications, and hardware to ensure there are no faults. It's a vital position in an organisation's IT department, and they are compensated as such.
In order to become an Enterprise Architect, you will need a university degree in either computer engineering, IT, or a related field. Typically, a bachelor's degree will be enough, however, a master's degree in a specialised field such as enterprise architecture may be desired. In addition, work experience of 6-7 years in a similar role will be required.
8. Of Counsel - £77,910 per year
At number eight on this list is the position Of Counsel, with an average UK salary of £77,910. This salary can go as high as £144,388 or as low as £42,039.
Of Counsel are legal professionals and thus work in the legal sector of a business or at a law firm. They provide their employer or clients with quality, accurate, and relevant legal advice. This could be related to contracts, mergers and acquisitions, or corporate law – whatever their client/employer requires. As such, they are considered experts in their field and their advice could drastically affect business decisions that are made.
To be employed as Of Counsel, you are expected to have a law degree and an extensive track record of work experience in the field. Being an expert in your field, of course, you are expected to have legal expertise, but also negotiation skills, communication skills, and general business acumen.
9. Senior Leader - £76,606 per year
Closely behind is the role of a Senior Leader, with an average UK salary of £76,606. Senior Leader salaries can range from as high as £129,123 or as low as £45,449.
As the name suggests, a Senior Leader holds a senior management position within the company, providing high-level leadership, implementing decisions from the board and executive team, and helping with company structure. Therefore, they typically report straight to directors and C-suite executives. Companies often have Senior Leaders in various departments since their expertise is usually specialised.
Whilst Senior Leaders are expected to have a bachelor's or master's degree in Business or a related field, they are appointed primarily on their past work experience and expertise. Therefore, 10+ years of experience is typically required. In addition, strong leadership, management, and consulting skills are expected in this role.
10. Quantitative Analyst - £73,353 per year
Finally, closing out this top 10 list is the position of a Quantitive Analyst, with an average salary of £73,353. Salaries can go as high as £130,683 or as low as £41,173.
A Quantitative Analyst is unlike any other role mentioned in this list. They help businesses make financial and business decisions based on mathematical and statistical data. This data is used to create complex models and forecasts for things such as risk and profit, which are then used by upper management and the board of directors to make business and finance decisions on investments, pricing, etc.
In order to have a career as a Quantitative Analyst, you are expected to have a university degree in either Economics, Statistics, Mathematics, or Finance. As you will be working with large amounts of data on a regular basis, data mining and analysis skills are a must.
As you can see from this list, it's dominated by senior managers. This makes sense considering these positions are responsible for making sure their companies turn over millions of pounds per year and are, therefore, the best-paying jobs. It may be surprising that the Chief Executive Officer position isn't the highest paid job in the UK since spearheading a company is an incredibly challenging career, and you'd expect them to be compensated accordingly. However, keep in mind that these numbers don't include bonus packages, which are often worth much more than their base salary, especially for positions such as a CEO.
We're already beginning to see more data and IT-related roles crack the top 10 list with Enterprise Architect and Quantitative Analyst, but over the coming years, as the world continues to become more digital, we should see more and more high paying jobs in these sectors. These could be roles such as a Chief Technology Officer, Computer Scientist, Data Scientist, and a Software Developer.