A new report has the government encouraging more people to study at a higher level - just days after student allowance changes which have hit postgraduates in the pocket.
A Ministry of Education report, released on Tuesday, lays bare the earnings potential of graduates from different fields - with an enormous gap between those at the top (doctors) and those at the bottom (performing arts graduates).
Five years after study, the median wage for someone with a bachelor's degree in medical studies is $109,977, trailed by other health fields like dental studies ($76,083), pharmacy ($75,124), veterinary studies ($74,166) and radiography ($71,370).
Civil engineers are the next best paid, averaging $67,653 five years after study.
Creative arts graduates earn the least: in that category, communications and media studies graduates are the top earners ($48,000) while performing arts graduates are right at the bottom on $35,000 after five years.
The data also shows those with a doctorate earn, on average, 168 per cent of the national median earnings one year after completing their studies, and 221 per cent after five years.
By comparison, those with a certificate or diploma will earn between 74 and 88 per cent of the national median earnings after one year and between 104 and 119 per cent after five years.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says it's very clear higher-level study improves career prospects, and that's something for young people to consider when choosing their study options.
The report follows changes from January 1 that mean higher-level students, such as those enrolled in a masters or doctoral program are no longer eligible for the student allowance.
It's estimated about 5000 students across the country will be affected by the tightening of the eligibility criteria, which was announced in last year's budget.
Without access to the allowance, postgraduate students will need to find some other way of supporting themselves, either by adding to their student loan, finding part-time work or deferring study until they can afford it.