As posties, teachers, rail workers, nurses and driving examiners get set for another wave of industrial action, some creative professionals might well be coming out in sympathy after seeing their salaries drop, while others have been handed pay rises of up to 25% – but one thing is certain, everyone is still feeling the pinch.
So says the latest salary guide from marketing and creative recruitment firm Aquent, compiled from 2022 UK placements, which reveals the industry’s winners and losers from the past 12 months.
On the surface, the creative sector is still one of the best payers. For instance, the Royal College of Nursing estimates that the average salary for an NHS nurse is around £35,000, while a junior digital marketing manager can rake in up to £40,000 a year.
Meanwhile, the average salary for a qualified teacher is £28,000, and a midweight data scientist can trouser up to £65,000.
Even so, while many junior creative roles pay more than public sector workers at the top of their game, getting your foot on the bottom rung of the creative ladder is becoming increasingly difficult.
The report also reveals certain creative roles that had suddenly increased in demand over the past two years have now been “corrected”, most notably in user experience posts.
Despite economic uncertainty on the horizon, however, companies are still hiring, especially for midweight and senior roles, which have more experience to bring to the table.
This year’s salary data paints a very different picture to the job market seen in 2021 where skyrocketing wages and a skills shortage were seen throughout most of the advertising and creative industries.
Instead, while still observing growth in almost every sector, the marketplace has entered into a new era following the pandemic ‘bubble’ which had caused many wages to become artificially inflated due to a rapid increase in demand for key roles. This ‘rebalancing’ of wages is in fact a return to a more stable job market, similar to what was observed in 2019.
As brands continue their focus on offering consumers scroll-stopping content, the battle is on to win over audiences and make a lasting impression in a world inundated by online ads and offers.
As a result, skilled designers who can stand out from the crowd are in high demand. Salary increases for senior digital designers, senior graphic designers and senior integrated designers have climbed by 10% (£5,000) on average compared to last year. While junior and midweight designers experienced substantial growth in 2021, their salaries remain untouched.
The data also reveals that video content is still very relevant and a crucial element for brand strategies, as senior video editors and senior video producers have experienced increases of up to 23% (£15,000). Junior and midweight video producers have also seen a jump of 14% (£5,000) and 10% (£5,000) this past year. Senior motion graphics designers are earning up to 22% (£10,000) more than last year.
There is no slowing down in the world of 3D; senior 3D visualiser salaries have climbed by up to 25% ( to £75,000) and senior 3D animators’, nearly 10% (to £75,000). Junior and midweight 3D animators are seeing growth too, their salaries have climbed up to 12%. There have also been rises for senior data analysts and senior front-end developers, who can now earn up to £75,000 and £90,000 respectively.
For the past two years, UX and CX have been calling the shots, experiencing a rapid growth in demand and, consequently, skyrocketing wages. Indeed, a handful of top-end senior roles saw their salary increase by up to 50%.
But this year’s data paints a very different picture as salaries for user experience roles decrease across the board, suggesting the market has undergone a rebalancing act as demand has begun to stabilise.
UX designers are the most affected by this as they have experienced an 11% drop (-£5,000) for juniors, 12.5% (-£10,000) for midweight and a whopping 33% (-£40,000) for seniors. Product designers, on the other hand, are still a hot commodity but their salaries remain the same as last years’. Account directors saw their salary range grow from £75,000+ to £85,000+, a 13% increase.
Freelance day rates for UX specialists and developers, however, are still on the rise. UX designers, product designers, UX strategists and front-end developers are all earning approximately £50 more per day than they were in 2021.
Having a top-quality account and project management staff can also play a key role in a company’s success and business leaders have realised that this is even more so the case following the rise of remote work.
Indeed, it is no secret that this new way of working necessitates account teams to spend more time staying connected, requiring more time and resources than in an office setting.
These roles remain in demand and this is reflected in the salaries as account executives are earning 11% (£3,000) more than last year and account managers, up to 14% more (£5,000). Digital project managers have also seen their salaries increase in 2022. Indeed, midweight digital project managers are earning up to 31% more (£12,000) and senior digital project managers, 20% more (£10,000).
After a few sluggish years, some marketing professionals’ salaries are experiencing a correction up, showing promising growth across all levels of seniority.
Senior event managers saw their salary increase by 9% (£5,000) while junior and midweight event managers observed a 28.5% jump (£10,000). In digital marketing, junior and midweight talent is earning 5% (£3,000) more than last year. Junior brand managers’ salaries are up 14% (£5,000) and midweight brand managers’ are up 28.5% (£10,000).
Content and social media are still in high demand and saw similar growth to marketing roles, content manager rates have increased by £5,000 across all seniority levels, which equates to an appealing 15% increase for juniors. Junior social media managers and community managers are now earning 7% more (£2,000) and their midweight counterparts, 14% (£5,000) more. Overall, freelance rates for marketing specialists remain the same as last year.
Although their lower salaries present an opportunity for organisations to make significant savings, there is a looming hesitancy to hire junior talent, especially in the design sector.
With the economic uncertainty, companies are looking to get the most for their money. Therefore, they are hiring more experienced workers who require less guidance from peers and who can hit the ground running.
Providing junior employees with adequate training in a remote environment can be challenging as it requires much more guidance and communication from senior staff, and although it is clear that hybrid/remote work is here to stay, many organisations are still adapting to this rather new reality.
The report does strike a note of caution, however. Despite the fact that many roles have experienced salary growth over the course of this past year, in many cases, it is simply not enough to keep up with the rising cost of living in the UK.
Aquent UK managing director Aliza Sweiry said: “There is no denying that the past few years have been quite unusual on all levels. We experienced unprecedented changes in the way we work and this has affected salaries across the industry in various different ways.
“Whilst UX salaries appear to have dropped significantly in 2022, it is simply due to last year’s exceptional growth in the ecommerce sphere, where organisations were desperately looking to enhance their online customer and end-user experience, causing rapid inflation of salaries.
“Now that the market has stabilised, we are observing a return to what is considered ‘normal’ salary growth. On the other hand, it is great to see significant salary increases in roles which had experienced slower growth during the pandemic, such as marketing, content and social.
“It is promising to see that although the job market ‘boom’ experienced in 2021 has not exactly repeated itself in the past year, the marketing and creative industries are still performing brilliantly and there are plenty of opportunities for growth.
“This may be a challenging time for junior employees to make their debut in the job market, but showing off the skills they bring to the table will definitely help them stand out and make their mark. It will be interesting to see how the industry evolves over the course of 2023.”
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