The pay of college graduates varies hugely depending on gender, postcode, college type and course and the part of the country in which they are working.
Persistent gaps in the earning power of graduates in the first year after college are highlighted in the annual Higher Education Authority (HEA) Graduate Outcomes Survey.
Younger male graduates - aged under 30 – are paid almost €3,000 more a year, on average, than their female counterparts, although that is reduced to below €1,300 when like-for-like graduates are compared.
Younger graduates from affluent areas earn around €2,000 more a year, on average, than those from disadvantaged areas, although it is reduced to just over €400 in a like-for-like comparison.
Attending a university or a specialist college such as teacher training, pays a dividend, with graduates earning more than €2,100 more a year on average than younger graduates from the institutes of technology. However, the difference is reduced to about €690 a year on average when like-for-like graduates are compared.
And working in Dublin also brings an earnings premium, with an average salary of almost €37,000 compared with less than €34,000 in the west and just over €34,000 in the border region.
The figures reflect the earnings of graduates – from undergraduate to doctorate - in spring 2019, nine months after they left college in 2018 and are published in the annual Higher Education Authority (HEA) Graduates Outcomes Survey.
That year, the graduate population was 62,147, up from 58,136 for the class of 2017.
Overall, ICT graduates were the highest paid on average nine months after leaving college, with those under 30 earning over €35,600 a year on average within a year of graduation.
Arts & Humanities graduates are the lowest paid on average with younger graduates earning around €25,300 a year, and the high proportion of females on those courses is a factor in the gender pay gap.
The report shows a continuing growth in graduate employment at that time, with 80pc working or about to start a job nine months after leaving college, up from 78pc the previous year.
A further 13pc were engaged in further study, compared with 14pc for 2017 graduates, 4pc were unemployed, (5pc in 2017) and 3pc were engaged in ‘other’ activities (4pc in 2017).
The highest employment rates were among those with the highest education level, with 88pc of those leaving with a postgraduate qualification, compared with 75pc of honours degree undergraduates, the same as the previous year.
Those at qualification levels 7/6 (ordinary degree/ higher certificate), some 30pc were working – up from 23pc the previous year- while 66pc were continuing to study.
The HEA annual report provides an important record of employment and earnings trends among graduates, but there will be no directly comparable data for the class of 2019, because of the disruption caused by Covid-19 at a time when the surveys are normally conducted.
Lewis Purser, who is Director of Learning, Teaching and Academic Affairs at the Irish Universities Association (IUA) said latest report again showed the added value that Irish university graduates brought to the economy, society and to themselves.
“As we seek to mitigate the negative effects of Covid-19, we need to increase investment in Irish higher education so that these positive outcomes can be maintained for the growing numbers of students graduating and contributing to our economic recovery over the next few years.”