New data confirms the value of tertiary qualifications

18 October 2013 – Higher qualifications mean higher employ ability and higher wages for young people says Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce. A new report by the Ministry of Education released today Looking at the employment outcomes of tertiary education, refreshes and updates information released earlier in the year to students and parents about the value of tertiary education qualifications. The report traces young people’s earnings and destinations for the first six years after graduation.

The latest report updates the Moving on Up – What young people earn after their tertiary education report with new data from the 2011 tax year. “It’s very clear that tertiary study improves career prospects. Young people with tertiary qualifications are more likely to be in employment and are very unlikely to be on a benefit,” Mr Joyce says. “It’s also clear that employment rates increase with the level of qualification gained. For example, in the first year after study, 53 per cent of young bachelors graduates who stayed in New Zealand were in employment and 40 per cent were in further study. This compares to 34 per cent in employment for young people who completed a level 1-3 certificate.”

The data also shows that earnings by young people increases with the level of tertiary qualification they complete, and there is a significant jump in earnings between non-degree and degree qualifications. For example, five years after finishing study the median earnings of young people who complete a bachelors degree is 48 per cent above the national median earnings for those aged over 15. “Those with postgraduate qualifications command especially high earnings – with half of young doctoral graduates earning more than twice the national median in their fifth year out of study,” Mr Joyce says.

The report continues to show that those studying in in-demand areas earn the most with large variation in earning potential for different types of graduates. For example, five years after study graduates with Civil Engineering degrees earn about $63,091 a year, 41 per cent more than Language and Literature graduates.

“While the absolute income levels have moderated a little in some cases as a result of the GFC, the relativities between the occupations have not materially changed,” Mr Joyce says. Data shows the top earners with a bachelors degree are graduates in medicine, earning around $109,318 per year five years after leaving study. This is more than three times as much as a performing arts graduate.

What to study is an important decision for students and their families. The Government is committed to providing good information to assist people making those choices, for the benefit of students and for the very significant investment taxpayers make in tertiary education. Along with this report, students can use the Careers New Zealand website tool to compare qualifications and fields of study. “This latest data confirms that tertiary education is a passport to success in modern life. I encourage young people to take every advantage they can of their tertiary study opportunities to obtain the skills to compete in the modern world.”