How much graduates in different fields of study can expect to earn has been revealed - and the Government says it should make school students stick with science and mathematics.
The Ministry of Education report on the outcomes of tertiary study is completed to add to the information available for those deciding what to study. It also helps the Government assess the value it gets for the billions of dollars invested in the tertiary sector each year.
The report - which looked at a period up to the end of the 2012 tax year - found that earnings varied considerably by field of study.
The top choices in terms of median earnings for young bachelors graduates five years after leaving study are medical studies ($110,300), pharmacy ($73,000), and radiography ($70,400).
At the other end, graduates in creative arts brought in median earnings of $42,900.
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Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the figures should help young people choose a career.
"Some of the applied degrees - engineering, pharmacy and medicine - are still attracting very significant premiums.
"If you are a young person, perhaps at year 10 and 11, and looking at this sort of data you'd probably be saying, 'I'd better stay with my science and maths'."
This year's Budget will lower tertiary tuition fees for science, agriculture and some health science courses. The Government has previously incentivised engineering courses.
Last year the University of Auckland arts faculty warned the nation could lose an "informed and thoughtful citizenry" if the benefits of an arts degree continued to be marginalised, with academics arguing the Government was playing favourites.
However, Mr Joyce denied that was an attempt to push students into certain courses, and said some of the so-called "Stem" subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths - had historically been underfunded, despite costing institutions more to run.
Overall, yesterday's report found that earnings increase with the level of qualification completed, with a jump in earnings between those with at least a degree and those without.
For example, five years after finishing study, the median earnings of young people with a bachelor degree is 46 per cent above the national median earnings for those aged 15 to 64 years.
Employment rates were also found to increase with the level of qualification gained, and very few young people with a qualification at diploma level or above went on to receive a benefit in the first seven years after study.
It did not look at the cost of qualifications, which can vary significantly.
For example, completing a bachelor of medicine at the University of Auckland takes six years at a rough cost of $76,000 in tuition fees (based on 2014 fees).
A bachelor of arts takes half as long at around $18,600 in tuition fees.
Increases in average wages have started to get back to pre-recession rates for the population as a whole, but the report found earnings have not moved to the same extent for young graduates and in some cases have dropped in real terms.
Read the full report here:
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