A new survey of graduate employers from the British Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) suggests university students who go into graduate jobs in investment banking aren't getting such a great deal.
In 2012, the median salary for graduates going into investment banking roles was £38k ($60k), says the AGR. Past AGR surveys indicate that graduate salaries in banking have been static ever since 2009 and that the average starting salary for junior bankers has risen by only £3.5k ($5.5k) since 2001.
Respondents to this year's AGR survey included Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas, Nomura International, UBS, and Standard Chartered.
£38k straight out of university may sound generous - until you consider that some junior bankers work crazily long hours. "Sixteen hours a day, five days a week is quite standard for juniors in M&A," says the global head of recruitment at one bank. Assuming 4 weeks' holiday, this works out at 3,872 hours a year, or £10 ($16) an hour. In the UK, the minimum wage is £6.19 an hour. Junior bankers are earning more than the minimum wage, but not that much more.
Fortunately, first year bankers don't actually have to live off their starting salaries alone: they also receive sign on bonuses and end of year bonuses.
A study last year by recruitment firm Dartmouth Partners found the average annual bonus for first year analysts in M&A was £19k ($30k). Logan Naidu, chief executive of Dartmouth, says starting salaries for graduates in front office banking roles are more like £45k, and that first years will also receive a £5k sign-on bonus.
This takes the all-in first year pay package for a student going into M&A to a far more impressive £70k ($110k). When junior bankers' long hours are taken into account they receive £18 ($28) on an hourly basis. This puts them on a par with bilingual PAs and plumbers.
Does hourly pay really matter? The head of graduate recruitment we spoke to says not: "On an annual basis, junior bankers are still among the best paid graduates. If you take a consultant or a lawyer, they'll be working similar hours and will probably earn less."