A team at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in northern Germany questioned more than 3,000 people about their career, and compared this with rankings of how attractive they were.
The results suggest that being one point more attractive was worth a three percent wage hike, while being five points more attractive boosted a career by the same amount as having a university degree.
Professor Christian Pfeifer said his study, published this week in the Applied Economics Letters journal, also showed that the importance of looks in the workplace was even more important for men than it was for women.
He took the 2008 German General Social Survey (Allbus) conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Social Sciences, which asked more than 3,000 people about their professional status and how attractive they considered themselves to be.
The interviewer also ranked each interviewee's physical attractiveness from one to 11 – one being the least attractive, 11 being the most attractive.
Pfeifer said the results showed that “just one point above average on the attractiveness scale and the chance of getting employed rises by three percent.”
“Five points more – that is about the difference between an ordinary face and downright beauty – helps in getting a job as much as a university degree,” he said.
A point on the beauty-grade was found to be worth on average three percent in wages, with the results were more clearly defined for men than women – although there was a distinct linear correlation for everyone, said Pfeifer.
He admitted it was unclear exactly how attractiveness often equates to higher pay and higher-flying career, although he said he suspected the first impression a person makes could be crucial.
“It is possible that good looking people make a more lasting impression in interviews, or that they come across as nicer,” he said.
“The future boss may know notice nothing – they may possibly think they were making a choice based on the competence of the applicant.” In such a case, attractiveness could act as a door-opener.
Once in a job, a person's attractiveness could even affect how effective they work he suggested.
“We know, for example, that good looking people are often more self assured, which could help in boosting their productivity.”