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Achieving excellent graduate outcomes

New Zealand universities are committed to achieving excellent graduate outcomes for the around 45,300 students who graduate from our universities each year. For most of our graduates, a university education is time and money well spent.

New Zealand university graduates have very high rates of employment by international standards. Most end up in degree-level jobs and have exceptionally high levels of employment throughout their careers. Research backs up students’ decision-making, showing that a university education pays off, with earning premiums continuing to grow as students move through the workplace and achieve higher levels of qualifications.

We have internationally high qualification completion rates, with students graduating in areas that will enrich their future as well as New Zealand’s regional and national economy and society.

Key facts

  • 45,300+ students graduate from New Zealand universities each year – 95% at bachelor’s degree level and above.1
  • In general, degree holders can expect to earn another $1.37 million over their working lives compared with people with only a secondary school qualification. An average master's graduate will earn $1.70 million more than a school leaver over their working life and an average PhD graduate around $1.92 million.2
  • Median hourly earnings are almost 50% higher for New Zealanders with a bachelor's degree or higher qualification compared with those with no qualifications; 22% higher compared with those with a level 4–6 tertiary certificate or diploma.1
  • A degree pays off by the age of 32 – i.e., when net additional earnings from a degree exceed the cost of getting a degree and income foregone while studying.3
  • The unemployment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree is around 2.9%, much lower than the rate for people with a level 4–6 tertiary certificate or diploma (4.6% in 2016).4
  • 45% of New Zealanders aged 25–34 years have a tertiary qualification, almost the same as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average (47%), but lower than Australia (54%), Canada (66%) and the United States (51%).5
  • More than 44.7% of university bachelor’s degree students have science, technology, engineering, health, agriculture or the environment as their predominant field of study.1

Want to know more?

[1] Education Counts, Tertiary Statistics, Tertiary Achievement and Attainment, students gaining qualifications from tertiary education providers, Ministry of Education, 2021 data (updated June 2022).

[2] Graduate outcomes analysis, Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara, 2020 (based on Census 2018 data).

[3] Education Counts, Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2021, Ministry of Education.

[4] Education Counts, Tertiary Statistics, Beyond Study, unemployment rates by qualification level, Ministry of Education, updated January 2018.

[5] Education at a Glance 2022, “Trends in educational attainment of 25–34-year-olds", Table A1.2, OECD.

Other resources

Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand.

Education at a Glance 2021 country note for New Zealand [PDF].