Top 10 jobs for pensions

10 December 2007

Automatic enrolment means that most of us now have access to a workplace pension, with our contributions topped up by those of our employer and the taxman. But even when the total minimum contribution rises to 8% in 2019, it will still leave many of us short in retirement.

While some of us are lucky enough to work for employers that pay in more than the minimum, your choice of career can make a huge difference to the size of your income in retirement.

These are 10 of the top jobs for pension benefits, both in terms of their generosity and their guaranteed longevity. You never know, you might just consider it's worth a career rethink.

1. Politicians


They might be responsible for tinkering with our retirement savings but MPs benefit from one of the most generous pension schemes out there. Although a new career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme was introduced in 2015, they still receive 1/51st of their annual pensionable earnings for each year that they in the scheme, revalued each year by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), in exchange for an annual contribution of 11.09%.  

And giving them more incentive to hang on to their seats, those aged 55 plus on 1st April 2013 can also stay in the final salary scheme, which was in place before the CARE scheme, for as long as they remain an MP.

Typical retirement income:
Based on the current salary of £76,011, a 57-year old, who serves as an MP between 2005 and 2025, can look forward to an annual pension of around £34,000 if they retire at age 65.

2. Armed forces


Although pension benefits for armed forces personnel have been reduced in recent years, members of the current scheme, AFPS 2015, still enjoy one of the most generous schemes in the public sector. 

It's a CARE scheme but it's non-contributory. Instead the Ministry of Defence pays in the equivalent of 1/47th of their annual earnings, with this increased each year to keep pace with inflation.

Normal retirement age is 60, although members can retire from age 55 in exchange for a reduced pension.

Typical retirement income:
A 30-year old army sergeant earning £36,000 today and expecting to retire at 60 as a major after completing 32 years' service, can expect an annual retirement income of around £41,000 and a tax-free lump sum of £22,000.   

3. Town planner


Whether you're a town planner or a refuse collector, you'll benefit from membership of the local government pension scheme. It's another CARE scheme, putting 1/49th of your pay into your pension pot each year. This is then revalued every year by CPI to keep pace with inflation.  

To secure this, local authority employees pay in between 5.5% and 12.5% of their income with their employer paying in the balance. As an example, someone earning £40,000 would pay in 6.8% of their income.   

Typical retirement income:
A 40-year-old town planner earning £40,000 can look forward to an annual income of around £29,500 if they retire at age 65.

4. Firefighters


Firefighters have had a pension scheme since 1926 but the current one, a CARE scheme, was introduced in 2015. This provides an annual benefit of 1/59.7th of earnings, with this revalued every year to keep pace with inflation.

Contributions depend on salary. For instance, in the 2017/18 tax year, anyone earning less than £27,543, pays in 10.5% of their earnings with this contribution rate rising to 14.5% for those with salaries of £142,501 plus.

Normal retirement age is 60, and there's an option to exchange pension income for a tax-free lump sum of up to 25% of the pension value. The exchange rate is £12 of lump sum for every £1 of income.

Typical retirement income:
A 25-year old firefighter joining the service on £30,000 can expect an annual pension in the region of £20,000 to £29,000 when they retire at age 60, depending on inflation-linked increases.

5. NHS employees


Nurses, surgeons and other NHS employees enjoy a CARE scheme. This entitles them to 1/54th of each years' earnings, which is increased at the beginning of each year by CPI plus 1.5%. They can take it all as income or exchange up to 25% of it for a tax-free lump sum on retirement.  

For this, they pay in between 5% and 14.5% of their salary, depending on how much they earn. For instance, at £25,000 a year they'll pay in 7.1%, while at £100,000, it's 13.5%..

Although the benefits have been trimmed back in recent years, it still remains one of the UK's most generous schemes.

Typical retirement income:
A 40 year old senior nurse earning £35,000 a year can expect to retire at age 65, with her 25 years service earning her a pension income of around £14,500. The maximum lump sum she could take would be around £60,000 but this would reduce her annual pension income.

6. Tax inspectors


Tax inspectors, as with any member of the civil service, enjoy healthy pension benefits through the Civil Service Pension Scheme.

Anyone joining now will be a member of the alpha scheme, which came into force in April 2015. Another CARE scheme, members have 2.32% of each year's earnings added to their pension, with this increased by CPI every year. This costs between 4.60% and 8.05% of earnings, 

Normal retirement age is the later of age 65 or state pension age, but members can take benefits from age 55, although these will be reduced to reflect this.

Typical retirement income:
A 50-year old tax inspector completing 15 years service on an annual salary of £45,000 can expect to receive a pension of around £13,000 when she retires at age 65.

7. Teachers


One of the largest public sector pensions, teachers pay between 7.4% and 11.7% of their salary into this defined benefit scheme, depending on their salary, with their employer paying a further 16.48%.

It's a CARE scheme so each year they accrue benefits worth 1/57th of their pensionable earnings. These accrued benefits are increased each year by inflation, based on CPI, plus 1.6%. There's also an option to convert up to 25% of the pension value into a tax free lump sum on retirement.

Retirement age on this scheme is the later of state pension age or age 65.

Typical retirement income:
A 35 year old teacher earning £40,000 who joined the pension scheme in September 2016 could expect an annual pension of around £46,000 when they retire at age 68. If they took the full 25% tax free lump sum - £200,861 - this would reduce their annual pension to £30,129.

8. Police officers


In line with other public sector organisations, the police force replaced its final salary scheme with a CARE scheme in 2015. Although some employees will stay in the old pension, anyone joining the force since April 2015 will be a member of the new scheme.

This entitles them to an annual contribution of 1/55.3th of their earnings, which is revalued each year by CPI plus 1.25%. To receive this, police officers pay in 12.44% if they earn less than £27,000, rising to 13.78% if they're on more than £60,000.

Typical retirement income:
A 30 year old police officer on a salary of £30,000 will receive a pension of around £28,000 if he retires at age 60. If he takes the maximum tax free cash at retirement - £120,000 - this will reduce his annual pension to £18,000.

9. Museum curators


Work for one of the UK's publicly funded museums, such as the British Museum, the Tate Gallery or the National Museums of Scotland, and you'll be entitled to a civil service pension.

In exchange for a contribution of between 4.60% and 8.05% of your earnings, you'll be entitled to 2.32% of your income as pension benefit. This will increase each year by the Consumer Price Index.

Typical retirement income:
A museum curator earning £30,000 a year can expect to build up a pension worth around £15,000 after 30 years' service. On £30,000, they'll need to pay in 5.45% of their earnings.

10. School caterers

Like town planners, school caterers are members of the local government pension scheme. For every year they're employed and a member of the scheme, 1/49th of their salary is put in their pension pot, with this revalued by CPI each year.

On a typical salary of £16,000, they would pay a contribution of 5.8% to receive this, with their employer topping up the rest.

Typical retirement income:
As a rough guide, a 35-year-old starting as school caterer on £16,000 can look forward to an annual pension of around £9,500 if they stayed in the same job and retired at age 65. 

In reply to by Tony Lopez (not verified)

You do realise that your police friend paid 11%, now 15% of his salary for his pension, from day one?That police officers now have to serve 35 years?Though they are able to retire before state pension age, they are likely to die prematurely as a result of the abuse they suffer? (Which in turn reduces the amount paid to them in state pension.)The option of saving for a pension is available to all?That anyone who can afford it, can retire as early as they like, and draw a pension from age 55?That £1 million in 2061 won't still be worth £1 million at todays values.Your friend is very optimistic, anticipating around a 2% pay increase per year. After a 3 year pay freeze and a 1% pay cap his average pay increase per annum over the past 5 years is more likely to be 0.2%!Your objection is to the lowest officer reaping such rewards...Have you considered that his senior officers will receive their pensions based on their final years salary. There being eleven ranks from constable to commissioner assuming an even 3 years in each rank the constable will pay for 16% of value of his pension on receipt, whilst the Commissioner will pay less than 8% (based on 11% of each ranks salary. A Pc's salary being listed as £38k and a Commissioners listed as £270,648k p.a. giving a current pension value of £760,020 and £5,412,960 respectively.) Who makes up that shortfall?In answer to your question, the government, that is to say we the taxpayer, cannot afford to honour our contract for these pensions and has changed them retrospectively. They were sold a Rolls Royce and a Skoda with a RR badge has been delivered!Police Officers I know are already more than a little miffed at having to pay more, work longer (therefore having less years to draw a pension, equating to less value drawn) and that is before they discover that the 3 year pension freeze and pay cap means that the canny government quietly cut their pensions, for life, Those retiring after already receive approximately £2,000 per year less than their colleagues who retired before the pay cap.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Police Pension should be at the top. I have a friend who is 45 years old and a PC. he told me he will be leaving the Police at 55 years old once he gets his 30 years service in. He recons he will be on about £45,000 pa by the time he retires and he will receive 66.66% of that amount annually for the rest of his life, which is £30,000 per year. He said that if he lives until he is 88 years old, he will receive £1 million from his Police pension. I feel it is disgusting that the lowest ranking Police Officers can receive £1 million pound pensions. How can the Government afford to pay such generous pensions??

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Top jobs for pensions? Don't look first at the public sector (where there used to be a deal that comparatively low pay was a trade off for a guaranteed pension), but look at the CEOs of large and medium-sized companies whose pension deals are tens times as large as the highest paid public sector workers - at the very minimum.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Typical retirement income:A 35 year old teacher earning £40,000 who joined the pension scheme in September 2016 could expect an annual pension of around £46,000 when they retire at age 68. If they took the full 25% tax free lump sum - £200,861 - this would reduce their annual pension to £30,129.How is this possible? Are we looking into the future - Teacher would retire on MORE than earned when working!!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Really not done your homework before publishing this. Why is the Police Officer one 8th, and the example is a Police officer earning 30k a year at retirement. Once youve done 7 years service the least you can be on is £38,300. Plus putting the extra 1% into pension after 27k (about 4 years service) Makes the outcome of the example much better than you have described. The firefighter and teacher one is wrong also. NHS should be near the bottom. Most these are wrong.

In reply to by Jake Hogan (not verified)


Irrespective of finite details , all public sector. Do they work longer and harder than every one in the private sector ? Not in my humble opinion.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Your comments surrounding the police officer pension are not entirely accurate. It is not just new joiners that join the CARE scheme. I was transferred across on its implementation date and as such lose a considerable amount of pension. Even more annoyingly colleagues I joined with / around the same time as that were more 'mature' are partially or in some cases fully protected (therefore staying on the 1987 scheme). And whilst we have paid the same in for 30yrs I will have to stay on longer to claim my (reduced) pension.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

very intresting,as a postal worker for 34 years and now aged 54,55 in april 2018,it's supriseing what people are due for long service,even tho the goal post are be'ing moved constantly it is possible to retire at 60.but one has to be realistic,get rid of the car,free bus pass in wales,install a wood burner,plenty of free wood about.and if the state pension does not rise yet again people born in the early 60's who have worked full time will be fairly well off.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

(Please check the armed forces sums quoted, is a "£22,000" lump sum an error?)I am fortunate enough to have one of the 1-10 above "Gold plated" pensions AND a privately funded Self Invested Pension.Why..? Because I don't trust the government not to default on their pension promise.The one thing all government pensions have in common (not mentioned in your article) is that they cannot take advantage of the new "pension freedoms" by transferring the government pension, which most other pensioners, such as those with a defined contribution pension can do, to a different product such as a SIPP.What difference does that make??? Well in the past two years, since I have been retired, my government pension has risen in line with the C.P.I., so a total of around 2%. Whilst my SIPP has risen by a staggering 72%.I do feel sorry for those who don't appear on your list however, I bet the retired 30 year old sportsmen are kicking themselves and the bankers with their measly pensions must be very embarrassed not to have made it onto the list!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You completely missed out the civil service who get a 25% contribution from the government in exchange for 7.5% contribution from themselves.....

In reply to by Xrat (not verified)

I retired recently after 30 years of shifts, harrowing incidents and violence, the area which was covered by 17 in 1990 is now covered by just 2, the job is stressful to say the least.I contributed 15% of salary at the end, in the bad old days it was 11% minimum, a second mortgage when you are trying to bring up kids and have a huge mortgage.On retirement I got £129000 lump sum and £19500 pa linked to the lower CPI at age 55 unlike the politicians who seem immune from the change from RPI themselves and continue to feather their own nests with impunity getting over 25% more this year..The government freezing pay etc has cost me over £60000 if I live 20 years into retirement, I hope to last far longer and recover in part what my service has cost me financially, physically, mentally and personally.The ones unfortunate enough to be hit by the new scheme are around £250,000 worse off over a similar period, a colleague who joined a few years after me and put up with the same stressful incidents has to work 10 years longer to get his full pension which is £100pm less in 2017 terms and £50000 less should he opt for the lump sum, include paying an extra 10 years into it too, he could of course go at 55 on a part pension but would then have to retrain.The government have done a hatchet job on all of the public sector, freezing and changing pay and conditions, of which pensions are a part, mid career.They were clever the way they implemented it as the less financially astute were ignorant of what they had actually stripped from them.I agree some practices need to change, senior officers still have a knack for getting promoted just before they walk out of the door costing the tax payer huge sums because they look after their own, however, don't have a pop at the ones on the coal face, unless you have done it yourself as you have no idea what they go through, I was in the forces and did active service, in many ways that was far easier than the constant churn the police put up with day in day out, I dealt with far more death, destruction and harrowing incidents in the police than I ever did in the forces.The other solution would be to join yourself if you think it is a good, easy number, good luck with that one, you will need it.

In reply to by Tony Lopez (not verified)

sadly your friend is wrong - and always remind him "The average police officer has a life expectancy of 12 years less than that of other people and dies within 5 years after retirement"


The difference between public sector final salary schemes and the private sector auto-enrolment defined contribution schemes is massive. Public sector employees moan about their pay and contributions, but never discuss how much the employer is contributing to their pension for example the employers contribution for teachers is rising from 16.48 %to 23.68% in September 2019 which represents and increase of more than 40% and for NHS it is rising to 20.6% whereas the minimum employers contribution in the private section under auto enrolment is 3%. The cost of public sector defined benefit pensions on the tax payers is unsustainable and unaffordable. In the private sector defined benefit pension schemes are in deficit and many have been closed to new entrants. Public sector employees have no idea how fortunate they are with their guaranteed pensions; this is a huge burden on the tax payer and will only get worse in years to come as people are living longer. I predict that this will cause significant problems in years to come for the public finances

In reply to by Elizabeth (not verified)

correct, unsustainable, and…

correct, unsustainable, and the Elephant in the room is whenever the cost of the NHS/police etc are criticised for being too small..the majority of the money is going on pensions….no politician is going to be brave enough to make that call to put government employee's on the similar pensions of the much derided brilliant business men of this wonderful (until recently) country

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