Students set sights on earning six figures

By Yvonne Tahana

Political science majors Martha Carrillo (left) and Francisca Acuna feel sure they won't be earning six figures. Photo / Natalie Slade
Political science majors Martha Carrillo (left) and Francisca Acuna feel sure they won't be earning six figures. Photo / Natalie Slade

More than a fifth of tertiary students expect to earn $100,000 by the time they're 30, according to a survey.

The figure is much higher than the average wage for those with a bachelor degree, but the Employers and Manufacturers Association has welcomed the result, saying it shows ambition.

And a quick check on university students shows the aim may well be attainable - depending on what you're studying.

The Colmar Brunton poll surveyed 220 students and also found that three-quarters expect to earn at least $60,000 a year.

The research company pointed out figures from Statistics New Zealand which showed the average weekly income for those with a bachelor's degree or higher was $1097 a week or just over $57,000 a year.

In the 2006 Census, 3657 New Zealanders aged 30-34 with a degree earned $100,000 or more. In the 25-29 age group only 822 made six figures.

EMA senior manager David Lowe said the "aspiration and enthusiasm" of the 22 per cent who wanted to hit the figure by 30 should be applauded.

He said it was pessimistic to make comparisons between the average wage and what people wanted for themselves. He wouldn't be drawn on whether it was realistic that a fifth would hit the mark in New Zealand.

But in the current market employers did find that graduates expected to move through the pay ranks quickly, but many were realistic about what their starting rates would be, he said.

"We do see graduates moving on after a year or two if their wage expectations aren't beginning to be met.

"I think everybody understands it's quite hard to get jobs these days and employers don't have a lot of them going. There really is a realistic approach where students are thinking 'let's get one foot in the door, prove ourselves and go from there'."

At Auckland University yesterday, the level of confidence about what students would be earning depended on what they were studying. A group of Polynesian engineering students said by age 30 there would be no question they'd be earning at least $100,000.

The only female among them Nane Taukolo, 19, was a little less bullish. She expected to be earning a little more than $80,000.

Avish Kapadia, 18, who is studying for a Bachelor of Technology, was also optimistic. The IT industry was full of opportunities, although he was considering a move to Australia to achieve higher wage rates faster.

Political science majors Martha Carrillo, 22, and Francisca Acuna, 21, laughed when they were asked if they thought they'd be earning $100,000 by 30.

"Maybe by the time I'm 50," Ms Carrillo joked.

Ms Acuna, who was unsure what job her degree would lead to, said she couldn't see herself hitting the target by that age.

"I don't think so, I'm more realistic - there's no way."

Last year Seek New Zealand said the highest growth of high-paying jobs was in IT and technology, engineering, accounting, sales and health.

The legal profession didn't make that list but Kensington Swan human relations director Laurie Finlayson said graduates started on about $40,000 but had long expected to be hitting six figures by 30, if not earlier.

- NZ Herald

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