Jobs that qualify for a PhD
salary discount under the
Skilled Worker route

In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, applicants must have a confirmed job offer from an approved UK employer. The job must be on the list of eligible occupations and you must be paid at least the minimum salary for the type of work you’ll be doing.

In most cases, applicants must be paid at least the ‘general’ salary threshold, which currently stands at £26,200 or the ‘going rate’ for their occupation, whichever is highest. However, in some cases you can be paid a lower salary by scoring ‘tradeable’ points for certain attributes such as having a PhD qualification that’s relevant to the job you are being sponsored for.

What is the current salary threshold under the Skilled Worker route?

Under the current rules, Skilled Workers must be paid the highest out of the following three options:

  • £26,200 per year
  • £10.75 per hour
  • the ‘going rate’ for the occupation.

The Home Office keeps a list of eligible occupation codes and their corresponding going rates, which can be viewed here.

What are the rules for PhD holders?

If your job is eligible for a PhD salary discount, you can be paid 80% or 90% of the job’s usual going rate, depending on which subject you are qualified in.

  • If you have a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) qualification, you can be paid 80% of your job’s usual going rate, as long as you will still be paid at least £20,960 per year.
  • If you have a non-STEM qualification, you can be paid 90% of your job’s usual going rate, as long as you will still be paid at least £23,580 a year.

In both situations, you must:

  • have a UK PhD or an equivalent doctorate-level overseas qualification – you’ll need to apply through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC)to check if an overseas qualification is equivalent to a UK PhD
  • be able to prove your qualification is relevant to the job you’ll be doing in the UK – your employer can confirm this.

Which jobs qualify for a PhD salary discount?

The full list of jobs that currently qualify for a PhD salary discount is as follows:

  • 1115 Chief executives and senior officials
  • 1121 Production managers and directors in manufacturing
  • 1122 Production managers and directors in construction
  • 1123 Production managers and directors in mining and energy
  • 1131 Financial managers and directors
  • 1132 Marketing and sales directors
  • 1134 Advertising and public relations directors
  • 1135 Human resource managers and directors
  • 1136 Information technology and telecommunications directors
  • 1139 Functional managers and directors not elsewhere classified
  • 1150 Financial institution managers and directors
  • 1161 Managers and directors in transport and distribution
  • 1162 Managers and directors in storage and warehousing
  • 1172 Senior police officers
  • 1173 Senior officers in fire, ambulance, prison and related services
  • 1181 Health services and public health managers and directors
  • 1184 Social services managers and directors
  • 1190 Managers and directors in retail and wholesale
  • 2111 Chemical Scientists
  • 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists
  • 2113 Physical scientists
  • 2114 Social and humanities scientists
  • 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified (For Skilled Worker purposes, occupation code 2119 includes researchers in research organisations other than universities).
  • 2121 Civil engineers
  • 2122 Mechanical engineers
  • 2123 Electrical engineers
  • 2124 Electronics engineers
  • 2126 Design and development engineers
  • 2127 Production and process engineers
  • 2129 Engineering professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2133 IT specialist managers
  • 2134 IT project and programme managers
  • 2135 IT business analysts, architects and systems designers
  • 2136 Programmers and software development professionals
  • 2137 Web design and development professionals
  • 2139 Information technology and telecommunications professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2141 Conservation professionals
  • 2142 Environment professionals
  • 2150 Research and development managers
  • 2216 Veterinarians
  • 2311 Higher education teaching professionals
  • 2317 Senior professionals of educational establishments
  • 2318 Education advisers and school inspectors
  • 2319 Teaching and other educational professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2412 Barristers and judges
  • 2413 Solicitors
  • 2419 Legal professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2421 Chartered and certified accountants
  • 2423 Management consultants and business analysts
  • 2424 Business and financial project management professionals
  • 2425 Actuaries, economists and statisticians
  • 2426 Business and related research professionals
  • 2429 Business, research and administrative professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2431 Architects
  • 2432 Town planning officers
  • 2433 Quantity surveyors
  • 2434 Chartered surveyors
  • 2435 Chartered architectural technologists
  • 2436 Construction project managers and related professionals
  • 2443 Probation officers
  • 2449 Welfare professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2451 Librarians
  • 2452 Archivists and curators
  • 2461 Quality control and planning engineers
  • 2462 Quality assurance and regulatory professionals
  • 2463 Environmental health professionals
  • 2471 Journalists, newspaper and periodical editors
  • 2472 Public relations professionals
  • 2473 Advertising accounts managers and creative directors
  • 3111 Laboratory technicians
  • 3112 Electrical and electronics technicians
  • 3113 Engineering technicians
  • 3114 Building and civil engineering technicians
  • 3115 Quality assurance technicians
  • 3116 Planning, process and production technicians
  • 3119 Science, engineering and production technicians not elsewhere classified
  • 3121 Architectural and town planning technicians
  • 3122 Draughtspersons
  • 3131 IT operations technicians
  • 3132 IT user support technicians

To find out the discounted PhD salary rates for the above occupations, please refer to the full list here.

Note: The annual salaries for these jobs are based on a 37.5-hour working week. They must be pro-rated for other working patterns, based on the weekly working hours stated by your employer.

You must also meet the other eligibility requirements for the Skilled Worker visa.

Other options for PhD holders

The UK is on the lookout for highly qualified professionals and offers several immigration options depending on your circumstances. Besides the Skilled Worker route, you may be eligible for the following visa types:

  • Global Talent visa – If you’re a research or academic leader, you may also be eligible to apply for the Global Talent visa. This visa has no language or minimum salary requirements.
  • High Potential Individual visa – This unsponsored visa gives you permission to work or look for work at any skill level in the UK for up to 3 years if you have a PhD or other doctoral qualification. To apply, you must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible international university in the last 5 years.
  • Graduate visa – This unsponsored visa gives you permission to work or look for work at any skill level in the UK for up to 3 years if you have a PhD or other doctoral qualification. To apply, you must have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at an eligible UK institution.

For expert advice on the best visa category for you, please speak to Smith Stone Walters. Our immigration experts will assess your eligibility for the various UK work routes and manage the visa application on your behalf. To find out more, please contact us today.

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