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Degree ranking system criticised

Published: 5:36AM Tuesday January 22, 2013 Source: ONE News

A new online tool is allowing students to see how much they can expect to earn in their chosen career and how likely they are to get jobs in various fields.

But students say the data, collected by the Ministry of Education, does not tell them anything they did not already know.

Bella Duncan is studying towards a PhD in geology and can expect to earn around $72,000 a year five years after she graduates. But she says income did not dictate her career path.

"The people who do the best in their careers are really passionate about what they do and that should be more important than the money that you could be getting," she said.

At a bachelor level, the top earners are those studying medicine, earning on average around $110,000 annually five years after getting their degrees.

Those working in education are getting just under $50,000 at the same stage of their careers, while creative arts graduates are making around $43,000.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says looking at post study incomes can contribute to making a better decision when choosing a degree.

"The tool will be very useful in considering their study options," he said.

But those representing students say the Government's new tool is a waste of time and money.

Incoming president of Victoria University Students' Association Rory McCourt said the tool had no new information.

"We already know that doctors are rolling in it and that a BA might leave you on a shopping counter.

"What students need is real support and real jobs when they graduate," said McCourt.

University leaders say while any assistance for students is welcomed, it is important to remember all degrees are valuable.

Victoria University's vice chancellor Pat Walsh said all degrees contribute to the development of generic skills which is what society needs.

However, President of the Association of Professionals and Executive Employees Peter Gene says the income figures given in the comparison tool are "erroneous and highly misleading". He recommended that anyone looking at tertiary study do further research and not rely solely on the ministry's information.

A report titled "What young people earn after their tertiary education" is also being released today.

The report has matched the information from Inland Revenue with tertiary qualifications data, and compares what students earn after studying different subjects and at different levels in New Zealand.

The report shows the advantages for people of completing study at higher levels in terms of both their earnings and their employment status.

For example, five years after finishing study, median earnings for young bachelors graduates are 53% higher than the national median wage, Masters graduates are 86% higher, and those that complete Doctorates earn on average 121% more than the median wage.

Joyce said the release of the report and website launch are part of a push to help young people make more informed choices about their careers.