Who earns what?

Find out which jobs in New Zealand pay the most and the least, and how your qualifications can affect your earnings.

What are the highest and lowest-paying jobs?

A man sitting at desk typing on a computer keyboard

Many of the highest-paying jobs are in information technology

We look at which jobs are usually the highest and lowest paid according to a Trade Me survey, and how what you study can affect what you earn. 

Note that:

  • The pay rates don't include overtime or bonuses, or other parts of salary packages such as a car.
  • Some jobs, such as medical specialities, are not included as they are not usually advertised on Trade Me. 
  • The survey doesn’t cover people who are self-employed or own a business.

Median income

The median, or middle, income in New Zealand was $48,800 a year or $23.50 per hour in 2016.

Highest-paying jobs

Highest median salaries for jobs advertised on Trade Me in 2017:

  • Information architects (IT) $135,000
  • Data warehousing and Business Intelligence (IT) $115,000
  • Cybersecurity specialists $105,000
  • Construction project and contract management $105,000
  • IT Sales $105,000
  • Finance managers & controllers $100,000
  • Database experts $95,000
  • In-house legal cousel $95,000
  • Quantity surveying $95,000
  • Surveying $95,000
  • Test analysts $95,000
  • Architects $85,000
  • Geotechnical engineers $85,000
  • Civil and structural engineers $85,000
  • Financial analysts $85,000
  • Commercial property management $85,000
  • Accountants $75,000

Lowest-paying jobs

Lowest median salaries for jobs advertised on Trade Me in 2017:

  • Kitchen staff $32,000
  • Bar staff and baristas $33,000
  • Housekeeper $33,000
  • Retail assistant $33,000
  • Assistant store managers $35,000
  • Process and assembly worker $35,000
  • Tour guide $35,000
  • Waiting staff $35,000
  • Machine operation $36,000
  • Receptionist $36,000
  • Storeperson, warehouse $36,000
  • Merchandisers $37,000
  • Security $37,000
  • Labourers $37,000
  • Cleaning $37,000
  • Warehouse and distribution $37,000
  • Administration $40,000
  • Butchers and Bakers $40,000
  • Beauticians $40,000
  • Call centre workers $40,000
  • Telesales $40,000
  • Traffic management $40,000
  • Horticulture worker $40,000


What impact do your qualifications have on your earnings?

Your level of education has been proven to have a big effect on how much you can earn. Usually, the higher your qualification, the more you will earn.

Personal factors that affect earnings

In general, the higher your qualification the more you will earn. However, your earnings are also affected by:

  • the subjects you study
  • the level you study at
  • the demand for workers at the time you are looking for a job
  • where you work – both the region and the employer
  • your previous experience
  • how well you negotiate your starting salary.

Study level and how it affects earnings

New Zealand research* shows that five years after qualifying, people with:

  • Level 4 certificates, and Level 6 diplomas earn the average income
  • Bachelor’s degrees earn 40% more than the average income
  • postgraduate qualifications (Level 7 and 8 graduate certificates and diplomas, and Honours and Master's degrees) earn 60% more than the average income
  • PhDs (doctorates) earn 100% more than the average income.

*This information is from Ministry of Education research on New Zealanders in work. The study didn't distinguish between full-time and part-time workers. This means it’s not possible to say whether differences in earnings are due to differences in wage rates or in the number of hours worked.

Ministry of Education website – more information about graduate earnings’ study 

How type of qualification and subject can affect your income

The Ministry of Education study showed that the subjects you study and the level you study them at have a big effect on possible earnings. Below are some examples.

Earnings by type of Bachelor’s degree

  • Graduates with Bachelor’s degrees in medical studies earned the most.
  • Graduates of radiography, pharmacy and dental studies were the next highest earners.
  • Visual arts and crafts and performing arts graduates were the lowest paid.
  • The lowest paid Bachelor's graduates still earned slightly more than the average earner.

 Earnings by type of diploma

  • The highest paid diploma holders studied civil, mechanical end industrial engineering.
  • Diploma holders in performing arts were the only ones who earned less than the average income.

Earnings by type of postgraduate qualification

  • Graduates of medical studies again had the highest income, closely followed by those with accountancy and civil engineering qualifications.
  • Performing arts graduates were the only graduates at this level to earn less than the average income.


Find out more

Careers New Zealand website

Updated 17 May 2017