The worst fears of the profession’s cynics appear to be confirmed: students who want to be high earners after graduation should choose almost any subject – even social studies – other than law.

According to new research from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, recent law graduates earn less than the overall average salary of their peers. Figures from the class of 2008/09 show that law graduates earned an average of £26,000 in November 2012, £1,500 less than the overall average of that year’s graduates. Social studies graduates earned an average of £3,000 more than their peers who studied law.

In January 2010, undergraduates and postgraduates from the same class earned £18,000, £3,000 below the median salary for all other subjects.

The good news is that law is one of the subjects with the highest level of full-time employment. Some 79% of law graduates are currently in full-time employment, compared with a total average of 72% for all graduates from 2008/09. However, the statistics do not show what the law graduates are employed to do.

Chair of the Junior Lawyers Division Heather Iqbal-Rayner (pictured) said the high figures for full-time employment disguise the fact a shrinking proportion of graduates are going on to become practising solicitors. She said the proportion could be as low as 10%-15%.

‘It is an extremely difficult market at the moment,’ she said, ‘particularly with the recession causing firms to close down.’