The first results of a long-term study of New Zealand university graduates has found that they average an income of $40,000 to $50,000 two years after graduating - 7 to 34 per cent more than the average for their age group.
The 9000 graduates, who were first surveyed before graduating in 2011 and were contacted again two and a half years later, reported median incomes higher than the $37,440 median income of all New Zealanders aged 25 to 29.
Four-fifths (81 per cent) were employed and only 2.7 per cent unemployed, compared with 77 per cent and 6.4 per cent of the whole 25-29 age group.
However 34 per cent of the graduates had experienced unemployment for an average of six months in the two years since they graduated, and only 64 per cent said the work they were now doing was related to their field of study.
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The study, led by Otago University's National Centre for Lifecourse Research, is the first major study to survey outcomes for international students as well as New Zealanders. It found that 48 per cent of international graduates had returned to their countries of origin, 43 per cent were still in New Zealand and 9 per cent had moved to another country such as Australia.
Almost 90 per cent of all the graduates said they would go to the same university again "if you could start over", but only three-quarters said they would enrol in the same qualification.
Three-quarters of the graduates had taken out student loans and still had a median student loan debt of $10,000 to $15,000.
Two-thirds said they were in a relationship and 27 per cent already had children, but 31 per cent were still single.
Only 7 per cent said they smoked cigarettes regularly in the past year, compared with 23 per cent of all New Zealanders aged 25 to 34.
The graduates were also more likely to have voted in the national elections (84 per cent) than the national average of 78 per cent.