Doctorate degrees can earn graduates more than double the national median wage five years after capping, a Ministry of Education report has found.
Released today, the study matched information from Inland Revenue with tertiary qualifications data.
It found that five years after completing studies, median earnings for bachelors graduates were one-and-a-half times the national median wage.
Masters graduates earn almost twice the national median wage, while those with doctorates earn more than twice the median wage.
Bachelors graduates in the health field earn the most after the five-year period, with a median of $62,647, whereas those who studied a creative arts degree earned a median $42,575 after five years - the lowest wage in the study.
Specifically, performing arts students are the worst off at the five-year mark, earning $35,552.
The average weekly income in June last year was $806, or $41,912 a year, according to Statistics NZ data.
Careers New Zealand is today releasing an online tool which allows students to compare earnings by qualification and field of study.
Tertiary Minister Steven Joyce said the figures should enable students to make a more calculated approach to their future.
"It's important for young people themselves to probably realise that the world's got a bit tougher in the last few years.
"The first decade of the century it was sort of pretty much no matter what you studied, the world was full of money and people could get jobs. Now we're in a stage where actually people realise that decade ... was pretty much a false environment from an economic point of view ... so that means thinking a bit harder about careers that would give you a good income."
However, Auckland University Students' Association president Daniel Haines said the figures would be difficult to stomach for medical students who may end up with a loan exceeding $110,000.
Changes to the Student Allowance cap of 200 weeks would be the cash-in-hand figures students were more immediately concerned with.
Post-graduate study to doctoral level took longer than the cap and he predicted hardship faced by students from lower socio-economic families would mean fewer would rise through the academic ranks.
"New Zealand is home to some of the brightest minds in the world, but our true potential will always be held back if there is an under-investment in our education system."By Yvonne Tahana Email Yvonne