If you are part-way through the university semester and starting to wonder if what you are studying is ever going to lead to a job, take heart – any qualification is better than nothing. Data from Universities NZ shows that most people with any form of tertiary qualification earn more throughout their lives and are more likely to be consistently employed than those who go straight into the workforce from school.
“What the evidence shows is that the more educated you are, the better your outcome,” executive director Chris Whelan said.
He said qualifications such as performing arts and graphic design, while resulting in lower earning outcomes than some other subjects, still left people on higher salaries than those without a degree.
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Data from 2013 shows people with a degree-level qualification in graphic and design studies were earning a median $38,600 a year. Performing arts graduates earned $1000 more. Those with a degree in civil engineering were on a median $86,000.
Whelan said the only qualifications that gave marginal benefit were the level three and four certificates that took a few months to a year to complete. “In some cases they are nothing more than getting the health and safety certificate that you need to get into something such as learning hairdressing.”
He said research done in 2001 had shown 36 per cent of jobs probably or definitely needed a degree. Now it was 48 per cent. “The nature of work is changing.”
Technology was removing a lot of lower-skilled jobs and creating higher-skilled ones, he said. “You need education to get into the workforce of today, and certainly of the future.”
Jane Kennelly, of recruitment firm Frog, said some jobs, such as those in HR, finance or communications, would require specialist qualifications.
But she said, for many others, it was possible to transfer a range of skills.
Recruitment firms themselves often just wanted to see a qualification to prove the candidate had the determination to complete one, and the ability to handle problem-solving.
But employers also wanted to see other skills, such as an understanding of the power of social media and networking, and an innate curiosity, she said.
Waikato University education student Tyler Payne has been forced to consider her employment outcomes because of publicity about a glut of teachers.
“I chose to study education purely because it is my passion and because I believe it’s such an important part of life. But as I was making this decision and beginning my first year of study, there was a nationwide excess of teachers, which was all over the news.
“I was forced to re-evaluate and decide whether it was worth continuing my study of something I loved even though there was no promise or likelihood of me getting a job when I graduated.”
She said she was no longer worried. “I came to the conclusion that I had three years of study ahead of me and a lot can change in three years.”
Whelan said most graduates had up to three years of uncertainty after they left university. But he said the data showed 85 per cent of teaching graduates ended up in a job that required a degree.
Some might take temporary work first, or wait for the right role, he said.
What are they earning?
Mathematical sciences: $60,00
Physics and astronomy: $59,900
Biological sciences: $50,800
Information technology: $59,500
Computer science: $64,800
Information systems: $67,000
Automotive engineering: $55,600
Civil engineering: $86,000
Medical studies: $100,200
Optical science: $78,200
Management and commerce: $75,300
Performing arts: $39,600
Graphic and design studies: $38,600
Communications and media studies: $44,800
* All workers, part- and full-time, with a level seven (bachelor’s degree equivalent) qualification. The figure quoted is median income.