A university degree is not worth it if you don’t know why you are there

When I was in high school, the advice was clear. Get good marks, get into university, and then swan into a high-paying job that you enjoy.

What specifically you should study wasn’t discussed as much. The thinking was that, as long as you went to university, you’d be fine.

Maybe study something you enjoy, because then you’ll “never work a day in your life”.

Well, myself and my fellow graduates faced a rude shock when it came to the end of our expensive degrees.

Not only were entry-level jobs thin on the ground, but the pay was abysmal. When we finally got employed, it turned out even a job you enjoy is still work.

Most work is work.  To sell the idea you can get an income from something you don’t mind doing until the day you die is disingenuous.  

We weren’t alone. The latest stats from the Ministry of Education show the pay you can expect after earning your degree is dropping.

You do still get a boost to your wages from having a degree, but while overall national pay rates are increasing, the pay bonus from all kinds of degrees are dropping across the board.

Internationally, New Zealand doesn’t compare well.

The latest report from the OECD says Kiwis get some great qualifications, but they’re in areas where there are too many people for the jobs available. So New Zealand workers are above average in settling for jobs they’re overqualified for.

You graduate with a double hit to your finances. You not only have tens of thousands of debt to pay off, but you’ve also not been earning because you were out of the workforce for several years.

Meanwhile, the tradies are doing great.

They might not earn quite as much, but their wages are increasing rather than decreasing, and they earn while training instead of building up debt.

MBie’s job listings data also shows the hottest demand is for semi-skilled workers, particularly those in construction, including labourers and machinery drivers.

These figures show that qualifications don’t necessarily equal skills. But it’s skills that employers care about.

Attitude and marketable skills are much more valuable than a generic degree in Arts or Sciences.  A while ago, going to Uni was a great way to delay life’s decisions, but these days it’s a way to get yourself a small mortgage-like debt before you even have a job to pay it off.

Vocational training is much more targeted and translates into practical advancement and practical rises in income.


– Frances Cook, NZ Herald

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.