How to know which UK city is the right one for you

The Best UK City for your Overseas Experience


When choosing which UK city is best for your overseas experience (OE), many Australians and New Zealanders instinctively opt for a good old London OE. While it’s become a travelling rite of passage for students and first-time Antipodean travellers, is a London OE the best UK option for every skilled professional?

The truth is that London might well be the right city for you. It all depends on your chosen career.

Which Jobs in the UK Earn the Highest Salary


Monster’s 2018 survey shows which UK sectors offer the most lucrative salaries. If you’re an experienced professional aiming to take your next career steps in the UK, you’ll do well to position yourself in any of these top fields. Bear in mind as an international OE contract worker your salary is very likely to be considerably more than that of your colleagues on standard permanent contracts:

  • Financial Services – £35, 625
  • Information Technology Services – £35, 033
  • Software Development – £34, 557
  • Construction £30, 829
  • Manufacturing – £29, 799
  • Retail – £26, 408
  • Education – £25, 024

London – The Number One UK Destination for International Visitors


If you’re looking for an iconic UK experience, London is extremely hard to beat.

London is home to the House of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St Pauls, Piccadilly Circus – need we go on? The bustling cosmopolitan city is widely regarded as the UK’s central theatre, arts, literature and music hub and there is a famous landmark on pretty much every corner.  The recent Royal Wedding coverage highlighted just how beautiful and steeped in history the city is.

London is also a cultural melting pot that accommodates 12.5 percent of the UK’s entire population (excluding visitors). According to the 2011 census, the 7.8 million people living in the capital speak 53 “main” languages, with 100 or more being spoken in 30 of the city’s 33 boroughs.

Attracting around 20 million visitors a year, the Office of National Statistics has named London as the number one destination for international visitors to the UK.

As a skilled professional on a working OE in the UK, you’re more than just another international visitor. Your needs differ vastly from that of a traveller visiting the UK for a historical tour, or a youngster looking for a week of revelry in the big city.

You’ll need to make some considerations regarding your working OE destination, especially which area best suits your travelling/working goals. Are you focused on working and saving, or are you looking for flexible work while you enjoy the culture and nightlife?

It’s just as important to research whether there’s a demand for your skill set in a location – this may dictate how much or how little you could earn.  With so many people already living in the greater London area, and the influx of visitors increasing year-by-year, living expenses and accommodation are predictably expensive.

Despite this extra expenditure potentially denting earning and saving potential, London is still the first choice for most overseas professionals looking for an exciting, but career-enhancing, OE.

Here are the top five destinations to live and work in the UK based on how popular the city is and what it has to offer international visitors and workers.  

The UK’s most popular cities: culture, cuisine and career choices

  • London

Tripsavvy dubs it “the gateway to the continent”, rating London as the number one working destination in the UK. The cosmopolitan city annually welcomes over 25 million visitors through its five airports, national rail stations and popular Eurostar terminal. With nearly every facet of industry be it technological, financial, design or architecture under the spotlight, the hustle and bustle of London’s work life provides enough opportunity for employment in nearly every sector.  

Average salary: £35, 068

Common sectors: All of them but particularly financial, banking and fashion

  • Edinburgh

Outside of London, Edinburgh holds the strongest economy of all the cities in the UK. It also has the highest percentage of professionals in the UK with 43% of the populace holding a degree or professional-level qualification.

The Scottish capital unsurprisingly then rates as a close second, and with a four-day-long New Year’s celebration, it’s not hard to see why. The festival of Hogmanay is a four-day street party that is no doubt a major draw to the city centre.

With sites like a 1,000-year-old castle, the Arthur’s Seat mountain in the middle of town and the world’s largest performing arts festival; it’s no wonder more than 13 million people visit Edinburgh every year. The capital is home to the headquarters of the Bank of Scotland, Sainsbury’s Bank, Tesco Bank, Virgin Money and more. Tourism and finance positions rate high on the list of jobs for workers in Edinburgh.

Average Salary: £29, 021

Common sectors: Head of Health and Community Care, Factory Manager, App Developer

  • Manchester

Back in the 18th century, the Northwestern city of Manchester was the cotton making capital of the world and a breeding place for the UK’s industrial revolution. As such, the city was populated with magnificent museums, art galleries, libraries, civic architecture and world-renowned theatres.

Having gone through an overhaul after 1996 due to an IRA bombing incident, the city has once again been restored to former glory, sporting some of the continent’s most dramatic post-modern, contemporary architecture. Bridgewater Hall, the Imperial War Museum and Urbis, a glass exhibition centre, make for popular landmarks to take in.

Like Edinburgh, Manchester is also very well-known for being one of the UK’s strongest business and financial cities. With a strong industrial history, the city invests a great deal of growth to fund local projects while also reportedly having the 9th lowest tax cost of any industrialised city in the world. Famed for having the lowest gender pay gap, 3.3%, in the whole of the UK; Manchester also houses the most multimillionaires outside of London. If business and finance are your specialty, working in Manchester’s economic sector is a great choice for a working OE.

Average Salary: £27, 016

Common Sectors: Data Scientist, Digital Marketing Executive, Retail Store Manager

  • Birmingham

Steeped in rich history and tradition, Birmingham was the cog in the British industrial engine all through the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s here where James Watt manufactured the steam engine, and it was also the home of transatlantic cable and the infamous Orient Express.

More recently Birmingham has come to be known for its Anglo-Punjabi, Balti cuisine. The culturally-diverse city is lauded over for its shopping malls, with their Selfridge mall looking like something out of an HG Wells novel and events at the Birmingham NEC consistently drawing massive crowds from in and around the UK.

With over a million residents, Birmingham is the UK’s second largest city and is a vibrant destination for lovers of art and music. Although the city’s prominence can be attributed to its manufacturing and engineering history, today its economy is dominated by the service sector, with public administration, education, health and financial/business services ranking high on the list of employment opportunities.

Average Salary: £26, 769

Common Sectors: Sales Executive, Customer Service Advisor, Design Engineer

  • Glasgow

The second Scottish city on the list, Glasgow makes the top five destinations in the UK thanks to its long list of accolades in the city’s attempt to recreate its image and give the city a facelift.

Voted European Capital of Culture in 1995, one of the top ten cities for tourists by Lonely Planet in 2008 and among the 50 safest cities in the world according to a Mercer quality of life survey, Glasgow has built itself a solid reputation for being a city that should be on every burgeoning traveller’s bucket list.

The city boasts both contemporary art, jazz, clubs, design and fashion culture; and the backdrop of the historic Western Scottish Highlands which lies just half an hour out of the city. Well-known for its history in shipbuilding and the tobacco trade. The city’s industrial focus is on engineering, construction, shipbuilding, brewing, distilling, chemicals and textiles.

At one time Glasgow’s primary industry, manufacturing has declined over the years to give way to growth in more tertiary sector industries such as communications, biosciences, healthcare, retail and tourism.  

Average Salary: £27, 324

Common Sectors: Instrument Commissioning Engineer, Engineering Manager, Senior Quantity Surveyor

Honourable Mentions

  • Liverpool

Following Glasgow’s success, Liverpool also received notoriety as the European Capital of Culture back in 2008. The city is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Albert Docks area, and one of the world’s most famous pop acts, the Beatles.

With a host of Beatles clubs and museums such as the popular Cavern Club, the Liverpool branch of the Tate Gallery and tons of trendy clubs, hotels and shopping malls, there’s never a shortage of things to do in Liverpool.  

Liverpool is the UK headquarters for many shipping lines including Japanese firm MYK and Danish firm Maersk Line. Along with shipping, the city’s economy is dominated by public and private sector industries such as public administration, education, health, banking, finance and insurance sectors, from which the city derives over 60% of all employment.  

Average Salary: £23, 758

Common Sectors: Restaurant Manager, Project Manager, Social Media Specialist

  • Cambridge           

Since early 2015 Cambridge has cemented itself as one of the UK’s fastest growing tech hubs. The subsequent boom has seen tech businesses pop up all around the traditional town. Founded back in 1209 the town’s rich history has continued through its universities and preservation of historic architecture.

Standout activities include a visit to Kings College Chapel or a tour of the town’s medieval, Tudor and Jacobean landmarks. Take a punt (flatboat ride) along the Cam and Granchester rivers for a relaxed guided tour of the city.  

Known for its economic diversity, sectors such as research and development, software consultancy, engineering, creative industry, pharmaceuticals and tourism are at the top of employment opportunities for locals and international workers alike.

Average Salary: £31, 385

Common Sectors: Software Engineer, Graphic Designer, Registered Nurse

Whatever your requirements for an OE may be, rest assured that there’s a UK city that perfectly suits your career choice. Download our helpful handbook to guide you through how to make the most out of your working OE.  

UK Move Handbook
Once you have decided which city is the one for you then this handy little book will walk you through all the essential next steps you need to take to make your professional OE happen, with money in your pocket, a boost to your career and somewhere great to livel!

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