Should you study or start earning money straight out of school?

There’s a big decision to make at the end of school – whether to continue your education. Should you take spend time studying, get a job… or do both?

Higher -education

If you choose to study there are loads of routes you could choose: a polytech, university, apprenticeship or private education provider. There are ways to fit study around working too so it’s a good idea to investigate your options here.

There are lots of things to consider when it comes to deciding if tertiary education is right for you, such as earning potential, debt, lifestyle and job opportunities.

Can you make money doing what you love?

According to the Universities New Zealand data, if money and job security are your main motivation for getting a degree then you might want to think twice about creative or performing arts, philosophy and religious studies as they could pay less.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for those interested in these areas. These graduates still earn above the median salary and unemployment rates are only around 2–5% (depending on location and level of study).

If you’re into the arts and want a degree with a broad outlook, a Bachelor of Arts has better prospects than its ‘generalist’ reputation would have you think. 90% of graduates are in degree-relevant roles such as teaching, management, policy and planning.

When it comes to choosing what you do for the rest of your life you need to consider whether you’ll actually like it and if it will be a good fit for your personality and strengths.

Our friends at Careers NZ have lots of helpful information for you to use when considering your next step:

There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind about what you want to do – and it happens often. Research the fields you’re interested in, talk to people and get work experience where you can.

How much money do you want to make?

The Universities New Zealand data reveals that the more educated you are, the more money you’re likely to earn. But you also need to consider how much a degree will cost.

Findings show that medical, engineering and information technology (IT) graduates are among the highest paid. A doctor can earn up to $4 million more than the average non-graduate over their lifetime. Engineers average $3 million more and IT graduates $2 million more.

What does it cost to study and how long will it take?

Degree in medicine

Medical school costs around $74,000 over five years, with additional on-the-job training required. General practitioner trainees can earn $70,000 to $175,000 per year. Experienced general practitioners usually earn $113,000 to $212,000 per year.

Degree in engineering

A Bachelor’s degree in engineering costs $20,200 to $30,000 over three to four years. Graduates can earn between $40,000 to $60,000 per year. Senior engineers can earn $85,000 to $180,000 per year.

A degree to get into IT

A Bachelor’s degree in computer science costs $20,000 over three years. Graduates earn an average of $84,700 per year.


Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘Occupation Outlook 2016’, accessed April 2016, (

Universities New Zealand, ‘A Degree is a Smart Investment’, February 2016, (

For more careers advice visit our friends at Careers NZ.