What do students earn after their tertiary education? Publications
This report forms one of the initial outputs from a project between the Ministry of Education, the Department of Labour and Statistics New Zealand looking at the employment outcomes of tertiary education (EOTE).
Information about the EOTE project, the data it uses, and other publications from this project can be found on the Statistics New Zealand website.
This report looks at the group of nearly 30,000 young domestic students who last enrolled in a tertiary education provider in 2003, and examines the influence of their tertiary education on their earnings in the first year following study and three years post-study.
Author(s): David Scott, Ministry of Education and Statistics New Zealand
Date Published: September 2009
For young domestic students last enrolled in tertiary education in 2003, median annual three-year post-study earnings were:
- 51 percent higher for those with a bachelor's degree compared with those with a level 1 to 3 (upper-secondary level equivalent) certificate.
- 30 percent higher for those with a bachelor's degree compared with those with a diploma.
- 6 percent higher for those with a diploma compared with those with a level 1 to 3 certificate.
- 6 percent higher for those with a master's degree compared with those with a bachelor's.
- 6 percent higher for those with a doctorate compared with those with a bachelor's.
Completing a bachelor's degree matters. Young students who completed their degree earned 29 percent more than those young students who left without completing their degree. The median post-study earnings for young people completing a tertiary qualification grew by 30 percent after three years. The national median grew by 8 percent. What you studied made a significant difference to what you earned. Compared with young bachelor's degree students studying humanities, graduates specialising in medical studies earned 2.59 times more three years post-study. Other high-earning fields were veterinary studies (1.61 times more), law (1.47), electrical engineering (1.44) pharmacy (1.43), accountancy (1.42), computer science (1.36), and nursing (1.26). Science subjects earned between 1.22 and 1.30 times more (except biology, 1.12). Degrees in teaching earned 1.27 times more in the first year, but 1.16 times by the third year. Degrees in tourism, performing arts, visual arts, and graphic and design arts earned between 10 and 20 percent less than degrees in humanities. However, degrees in communication and media studies earned 11 percent more.
Across other levels of study, qualifications in engineering, information technology, architecture and building, and health generally earned the most. Qualifications in science or management and commerce earned in the middle range of earnings, while qualifications in society and culture, creative arts, food, hospitality, and personal services earned less than other fields. Teaching and education qualifications started relatively higher, but after three years were earning similar amounts to those in the middle-earning fields.
In terms of post-study earnings, the labour market does differentiate course completion in addition to qualification completion. Young students completing most or all of their courses with no qualification earned more than those who failed all or most of their courses. However, the study found support for the commonly held view that for young people, gaining a qualification is what matters most.
The median earnings for young students gaining a bachelor's degree from a polytechnic were 8 percent less than for those gaining a degree from a university. This difference was similar both one year and three years after study, and remained the same after adjusting for differences in field of study, age, sex, ethnic group, industry, and firm size.