Many people aspire to earn a high hourly wage for their work.
However, the jobs that pay the most per hour are often highly skilled professions that require many years of education, training, and experience.
In the UK, the highest paying jobs on an hourly basis are concentrated in medicine, aviation, law, finance, technology, and media/entertainment.
This article will examine several of the professions that boast the highest hourly wages in the UK and discuss key factors that enable such high rates of pay per hour of work. While the salaries may seem astronomical for many roles, the skills, responsibilities, training requirements and work hours make these jobs major earners over £50, sometimes £100 or more per hour.
For individuals seeking high paying career options, this overview covers which fields offer opportunities to earn over £40, £60 or even £100 per hour at the upper levels.
The article outlines typical requirements such as education, licensure exams, on the job training, and specialized skills needed to secure the highest paid positions in each field.
Whether your strengths lie in medicine, computers, business, law or the arts, identifying well-compensated careers that match your interests and abilities can help you maximize your earnings potential per hour worked.
What Job Makes the Most Money Per Hour in the UK?
Surgeons top the list of the highest paying jobs per hour in the UK, with average hourly wages of £100 or more once they are established in their careers.
The field of medicine has some of the highest hourly rates due to the lengthy training requirements and high stakes associated with performing complex surgical procedures on patients.
Becoming a surgeon takes years of education and on-the-job training.
Requirements for Becoming a Surgeon:
- Medical degree – Becoming a fully licensed surgeon starts with 4-6 years of medical school to earn a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree. Students complete science prerequisites, then two years of classroom lectures and rotations, followed by two years of clinical rotations.
- Residency – After medical school, aspiring surgeons complete a 5-7 year residency in general surgery, where they gain hands-on supervised surgical experience. This includes assessing patients, assisting in surgery, and eventually performing procedures independently.
- Specialized training – Many surgeons pursue 1-2 years of additional fellowship training to specialize in areas like cardiothoracic, neurologic, plastic, trauma, or vascular surgery. This allows them to command even higher pay rates.
- Licensure – Surgeons must pass rigorous licensing exams and become certified by the General Medical Council in order to practice in the UK. They must also keep up board certifications through ongoing education and training.
- Strong grades, test scores, coordination, and attention to detail are essential prerequisites to be accepted into medical school and competitive surgical residency programs. The long educational timeline and the high-stakes nature of surgery justify the high hourly wages for experienced surgeons.
Typical Hourly Wages for Surgeons in the UK:
- Entry-level surgeons in residency earn approximately £20-£30 per hour.
- Qualified surgeons with some experience earn around £50-100 per hour.
- Senior or specialist surgeons can make over £100 per hour, sometimes significantly more in private practice.
- In the NHS, surgeon salaries are set by national pay scales and seniority level. Those who operate private practices can set higher fees.
- Wages vary by surgical specialty, with neurosurgeons and organ transplant surgeons at the top end of the pay scale.
Surgery is a long but rewarding path that enables professionals to earn over £100 per hour once established in their careers. The advanced skills and pressure involved in performing invasive, life-saving procedures offer financial compensation to match.
Pilots are another profession that commands very high hourly wages in the UK, with senior pilots at major airlines earning £90 to over £100 per hour of flight time. The extensive training and ensuing responsibilities involved in flying passenger aircraft make this a highly skilled and compensated role.
Requirements for Becoming a Pilot:
- Education – While there are no formal education requirements, most airline pilots obtain a bachelor’s degree which can help provide an advantage when pursuing flight school and jobs. Subjects like physics, math, mechanics and aviation provide good foundations.
- Flight training – Pilots complete flight training to earn private and commercial pilot licenses. This advanced flight instruction covers procedures, systems, regulations, navigation, emergency management, weather, and communications.
- Licenses and certifications – Pilots must earn licenses for various aircraft like single engine, multi-engine, helicopters and instrument ratings. They must pass written, oral, medical and practical flight exams.
- Experience – Most airlines require at least 1,500 hours of total flight time. Pilots build experience through flight instruction, charter services, corporate flying, regional airlines or the military.
- Ongoing training – Pilots have annual training requirements to operate specific aircraft and must pass recurring flight checks.
The extensive skill and precision required to safely operate large jets carrying hundreds of passengers is a major factor in the high hourly pay scale for experienced airline captains and first officers.
Typical Hourly Wages for Pilots in the UK:
- Entry-level first officers at regional airlines make approximately £25-35 per hour.
- Mid-level first officers and captains at major airlines earn around £50-90 per hour.
- Senior captains on long-haul widebody jets can make over £100 per hour.
- Salaries vary by airline, aircraft type, and seniority. International long haul pilots tend to earn the highest wages.
Pilots earn their high hourly wages through many years of intensive training, developing impeccable flight skills, and navigating a competitive career path to reach the pinnacle of large jet aviation. Their compensation reflects the tremendous skills and responsibilities required.
Lawyers have the potential to earn very high hourly wages, especially as they gain experience and specialize in certain high-paying legal practice areas. Senior lawyers can make anywhere from £50 per hour up to £100+ for their services. The complex nature of legal work and years of training required position lawyers to earn top dollar per hour.
Requirements for Becoming a Lawyer:
- Degree – Aspiring lawyers must complete an undergraduate degree such as law, politics or business, followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law conversion course. This takes 6-7 years total.
- Legal Practice Course – All lawyers must pass this vocational stage where they receive practical legal training.
- Training contract – Lawyers complete 2 years of on-the-job training at a law firm to transition from student to practitioner.
- Qualifying exams – Lawyers must pass exams on topics like civil litigation, criminal law, and professional conduct set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
- Admission/licensure – After passing assessments lawyers are admitted to the roll of solicitors in order to practice.
- Specialization – Most lawyers focus their practice in areas like corporate law, tax law, litigation, real estate, family law or criminal law. This expertise allows them to charge higher rates.
- Continuing education – Lawyers must regularly complete continuing professional development courses.
Hourly Rates for Lawyers in the UK:
- Newly qualified solicitors can earn around £25-40 per hour.
- Associates with 3-5 years experience typically make £50-70 per hour.
- Senior associates and partners can charge £70-100+ per hour, with top barristers earning even more.
- Rates vary by location, firm size, specialty, and client base. Lawyers on retainer may charge lower hourly fees.
The long training process and complexity of legal matters enable experienced lawyers in fields like corporate transactions, litigation, and patents to earn over £100 per hour, making law a lucrative path in terms of hourly pay rates.
IT contractors are able to earn high hourly wages for their services, typically between £50-80 per hour, although senior contractors or those with in-demand niche skills can make up to £100 per hour or more.
Their specialized technology skills and the flexible nature of contract work enable such high rates.
Requirements for Becoming an IT Contractor:
- Degree/certification – Many IT contractors have a university degree in computer science or IT. Some are self-taught or have an alternative background with specialized certifications.
- Technical skills – Must have expertise in areas like software development, networking, data, cloud platforms, cybersecurity, etc. Keeping skills current is key.
- Business/soft skills – Strong communication, time management, negotiation skills help in securing contracts and interacting with clients.
- Experience – Several years’ experience in IT roles, either as an employee or contractor, provides a foundation of skills.
- Legal/compliance – Contractors are responsible for their own taxes, insurance, and accounting. They must follow IR35 regulations.
Typical Hourly Rates for IT Contractors:
- Entry-level contractors with limited experience tend to earn around £20-30 per hour.
- Mid-level contractors with a few years’ experience and moderate skills make £40-60 per hour.
- Senior contractors or niche experts can earn up to £70-100 per hour or more if they have in-demand specialized skills.
- Rates vary based on role, skills, experience, location and market demand. Temporary skills shortages can drive up wages.
- Contractors may earn more per hour than permanent roles to compensate for lack of benefits.
IT contractors are able to earn over £80 per hour by developing expertise in high value emerging technology skills that are in short supply.
Their flexible work arrangements also allow them to command premium rates.
Professionals working in finance and accounting services also have the potential to earn over £100 per hour once established in their careers.
Those working in front-office investment banking, trading, and corporate finance roles tend to have the highest earning power.
- Education – Most roles require at least a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, business, or related major with strong grades and numeracy skills.
- Qualifications – Certifications like Chartered Accountant (ACA or CA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), help provide credentials and expand career options.
- Experience – Even with qualifications, 1-3 years experience doing financial analysis or similar work is required to gain competencies.
- Industry knowledge – Keeping current on the macroeconomic climate, financial regulations, and industry trends is vital. Ongoing learning is required.
- Soft skills – Strong communication, work ethic, attention to detail, problem solving and collaboration skills are valued.
- Travel/long hours – Most professionals work well over 40 hours per week. Frequency of travel/overseas work depends on role.
Typical Hourly Wages in Financial Services:
- Entry-level analysts earn approximately £15-25 per hour.
- Associates with 2-4 years experience make around £35-50 per hour.
- Vice president level and above can earn £60-100+ per hour.
- Front office investment banking roles have the highest earning potential per hour.
- Top traders or partners at hedge funds/private equity firms can make several hundred or thousands per hour.
The high stress, long hours, and skills demand within competitive financial services firms enables experienced professionals to earn over £100 per hour, especially in front office roles. This comes after paying one’s dues in junior level positions.
Jobs That Earn £100+ Per Hour in the UK
- Surgeons – Senior surgeons performing highly complex procedures can earn over £100 per hour.
- Pilots – Experienced pilots working for major airlines on long-haul routes earn upwards of £100 per hour of flight time.
- Lawyers – Partners and senior lawyers with specialized expertise can charge well over £100 per hour.
- IT Contractors – Contractors with in-demand tech skills like cloud, AI, cybersecurity can earn £100+ per hour.
- Finance Professionals – Front office investment bankers, traders, partners at hedge funds/private equity firms make £100-1000+ per hour.
Requirements for High Hourly Pay Roles
- Extensive education and training over many years
- Multiple degrees, licenses, certifications
- Developing a specialized, in-demand expertise
- Gaining years of hands-on work experience
- Exceptional skills, capabilities and work ethic
- Accepting intense pressure, long hours, high stakes
Maximizing Earning Potential Per Hour
- Pursue a career aligned to your strengths and interests
- Be willing to invest time developing expertise and progression
- Consider fields and roles with the highest pay ceilings
- Develop niche skills that command premium rates
- Be strategic in gaining the right qualifications, training, and experience
Earning over £100 per hour takes years of dedication but is feasible for professionals at the pinnacle of certain fields like medicine, aviation, law, technology, and finance.
These jobs require extensive training, specialized credentials, and cultivation of precise skillsets to justify commanding ultra-high hourly wages.
Surgeons, pilots, lawyers, senior IT contractors, and finance directors earn over £100 per hour once established in their careers.
This level of pay comes after putting in thousands of hours of study, training on the job, gaining licensure, and proving oneself in the field.
Only those at the top of their profession can command such rates.
Professionals aspiring to maximize their earnings per hour worked should identify roles aligned to their innate strengths and interests that also offer the highest pay ceilings.
These tend to be highly complex, specialized jobs that rely heavily on advanced skills, training, and expertise.
Developing niche skills in emerging, high-demand fields can provide potential for even higher pay.
Being willing to put in the hard work upfront through education, training, exams and progression in entry-level roles opens doors to ultimately earn over £100 per hour down the line.
It takes tremendous commitment over the span of a career. But for those who reach the pinnacle as surgeons, pilots, lawyers, contractors and bankers, the compensation per hour worked is immense.