Degree class 'matters for salary'
But it also suggests that some of the highest-paying jobs do not require a degree at all.
The analysis of more than half a million jobs, conducted by jobs search engine Adzuna, found that students who leave university with a 2:2 or a third can expect to earn around £10,450 less each year than their peers with higher degrees - a loss of almost £500,000 over a working lifetime.
Students looking to earn big salaries should opt for science and maths, the findings suggest - the top-earning degrees were engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, maths and civil engineering.
Someone working on an offshore oil platform can expect to take home £70,500 a year on average while a commodities trader earns around £60,464 and a firefighter's average annual salary stands at £52,960.
At the other end of the scale, some degree subjects will only lead to relatively low salaries.
On average, a graduate with a degree in hospitality and tourism can expect to earn around £18,996. Art and design attracts an average salary of £19,209 and anthropology an average pay of £21,321.
The research also looked at the types of jobs available as well as their location. It found that IT has the highest number of vacancies followed by engineering and sales.
Adzuna's head of research Flora Lowther said: "With over 2.5 million unemployed and youth unemployment still pushing one million, young people need to be smart about their choices to maximise their employment prospects and the return on their time and money."
© 2013 Press Association