Salaries for education graduates drop more than for other sectors

CSO research indicates ICT graduates were best paid, followed by education and health

Starting salaries for education graduates have dropped by more than for graduates of any other field of study over recent years, new figures indicate. Despite the fall, they remain among the best paid graduates in their first year out of college.

A new CSO study has tracked graduates’ weekly earnings across different fields of study between 2010 and 2014 using data from the Revenue Commissioners and other sources.

It recorded a large decrease in median weekly earnings over the five-year period for education graduates, dropping from €705 to €560 per week. There was also a drop for health and welfare graduates, down from €590 to €565 a week. These reductions coincided with austerity-era salary cuts for public sector workers.

By contrast, the biggest increases over the same period were for information and communication technologies (ICT) graduates (up from €470 to €570 a week), followed by agriculture and veterinary (up from €400 to €480), and engineering graduates (up from €450 to €515).


The fall in education starting salaries will likely be seized on by teachers’ unions who blame teacher shortages in key areas on lower pay scales for those who joined the profession from 2011 onwards.

The survey also tracked the earnings of graduates in 2010 over a five-year period. They show that education graduates earned more than other college graduates in their first year following graduation. However, their earnings increased at the slowest rate of all, leading to other graduates narrowing the gap or overtaking them by 2014.

Median weekly earnings

At the end of the four-year period, technology – or ICT – students had the highest median weekly earnings (€775) in 2014. They were followed by graduates from the field of education (€740), health and welfare (€705) and business/administration/ law (€640).

Many of these workers who were in the public sector – such as education and health – escaped the worst of austerity-era pay cuts.

The CSO study – the result of a collaborative project with the Higher Education Authority – also indicates that new graduates' employment prospects improved significantly over the period of the study.

Among 2010 graduates, two out of three (66 per cent) were in substantial employment in the first year after graduation. This increased to just over three out of four (76 per cent) in substantial employment for 2014 graduates.

The findings also show female graduates (71 per cent) from 2010 were more likely to be in substantial employment in the first year after graduation than males (60 per cent) one year after graduation.

Substantial employment was defined in the study as reaching a threshold of 12 weeks of work within the year and average weekly earnings of at least €100.

Gender pay gap

There is evidence of a gender pay gap opening up among male and female graduates over time.

In the first year after graduation, median weekly earnings were equal for men and women at €420 per week. However, after five years median weekly earnings for men, at €655 per week, were €20 above the figure of €635 per week for women.

Female graduates from 2010 were much more likely to work in education or health and social work. Male graduates, by contrast, were more likely to work in professional, scientific and technical activities, along with finance and real estate, industry and ICT.

Welcoming the report, Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the figures underlined the merit in progression and investment in higher education, both for the individual and the State. “The report also shows the excellent opportunities that education offers as a career path. ”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent