The degree dividend

The Australian    25 July 2012

Just about everybody other than artists and others in the bottom pay quintile of graduates makes money by doing an undergraduate degree, according to a study by a University of Canberra based team from the Centre for Labour Market Research.

The case for a full time masters degree is more mixed. The study shows that while a masters in the humanities, nursing and education is good value the internal rate of in other areas is either negative or negligible.

The analysis confirmed the all but universal assumption that graduates are not just good for national productivity but a degree is a generally profitable investment for individuals.

The research also established which qualifications generate the best returns for men and women by area, and level of study.   The rates of return for bachelor graduates in all disciplines, except visual and performing arts are strong, ranging from 3 per cent for men in humanities to 20 per cent for dentists. Overall returns are marginally less for women, except in the humanities where women earn a 9 per cent return, three times that of men.

The analysis indicates it is best to get through a bachelors degree in the minimum time. In most disciplines students who take an extra year to complete receive a lower return.

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