Tech graduates earn most within five years of college exit

Study tracks earnings of hundreds of thousands of graduates via PAYE system

Technology graduates are earning significantly more than other graduates within five years of leaving college, according to major study by the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO survey tracked the earnings of hundreds of thousands of graduates who left college between 2012 and 2016 using income recorded through the PAYE system.

Within five years of leaving college, graduates from information and communication technology courses were by far the highest earners, earning €815 a week on average.

Engineering students earned €730 on average five years after leaving college, while those who studied health and welfare earned €710, science (€705), education (€695) and business/law (€685).


By contrast, the lowest earners had qualifications in services (€530 a week), arts and humanities (€585), agriculture and veterinary (€610), social sciences and journalism (€645).

Despite high earnings on offer in the sector, many tech firms say they are facing acute skills shortages and relatively few school-leavers are choosing courses in this area.

The most popular industries for new graduates in 2016 were wholesale and retail, followed by health, science and education.

There is also evidence of a gender gap in earnings, with men more likely to earn more than women.

For example, men who graduated in 2016 earned an average of €485 a week , compared to €470 a week for women

One possible factor is that men are more likely to be employed in sectors with higher earnings, such as ICT.

Earnings premium

The data also shows a significant earnings premium is attached to higher levels of qualification.

Graduates with a doctoral degree earned most within a year of qualification (€710 per week), followed by master’s (€560), honours degree (€475), ordinary degree (€380) and advanced certificate (€285).

In a sign of the job opportunities on offer in the growing economy, fewer graduates are choosing post-graduate studies and are opting to go straight into the workplace.

While about one in four graduates re-enrolled in higher education in 2016, this is down from one in three in 2010.

Almost 80 per cent of 2016 graduates were in employment in the first year after graduation, compared with 65 per cent of 2010.

Graduates are also earning more, with weekly median earnings for 2016 graduates at €475 a week, compared with €420 in 2010.

While the five-year figures show tech graduates are earning most within five years of graduating, the one-year figure paints a different picture.

Over recent years, education graduates have tended to earn most in the first year after college, followed by health and welfare.

However, the slower rate of salary increase in these sectors means tech and engineering graduates outstrip them within a few years.


The study also sheds new light on the further education sector, which includes post-Leaving Cert courses and apprenticeships.

It shows almost two out of three 2016 graduates were in employment in the first year after graduation, compared with less than half of 2010 graduates.

Relatively high numbers are choosing to remain in the education system. Some 30 per cent of 2016 graduates from further education progress to higher education, while 38 per cent were re-enrolled in another further education course within a year.

The study also shows employment prospects for apprenticeships have improved significantly over recent years.

While more than half of apprentices qualified in 2010 were in employment two years after qualification, this rose to 80 per cent for apprentices qualified in 2014.

Paul O’Toole, the Higher Education Authority’s chief executive, said the study provided “invaluable information” on what graduates do after leaving college.

He said it will allow stakeholders in higher education to build a “strong and objective evidence-base for policymaking and delivery of a high-quality higher-education system”.