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Show me the money

Further study may seem costly, but reports show it will pay off. Annie May reports.

As the majority of surveys show, most nurses are in the profession for the love of it rather than financial reward. They want to care for people.

But while money may not be the reason for choosing nursing as a career, the opportunity to earn more is appealing – particularly as the cost of living rises.

For those who would like to see more dollars in their pay check, postgraduate study could be the answer. Findings from the recently released Australian Graduate Survey showed health professionals who completed a postgraduate study could earn up to $20,000 more than those who only held a bachelor degree.

It also found postgraduate health professionals were one of the highest ranked for median salaries compared to other occupations.

Gail Sanders says while it wasn’t what motivated her to do further study, the extra money she has received since was a “pleasant bonus”.

The Victorian nurse completed her masters two years ago and says her pay has since gone up substantially.

“Employers want skilled and qualified staff they can possibly have, and I think with the current shortage they now recognise they will have to put money on the table to be competitive,” says Sanders.

“Nursing, as with all of health, is a profession that is constantly changing and nurses need to keep up with those changes.

“Further education is one way of doing this. It is also a way for nurses to progress in the career.”

Despite the extra money it can result in, Sanders says the initial financial burden of studying is an issue.

“The saying that you have to spend money to make money is true. But many people don’t have that money to spend,” she says.

“My advice is to ask employers for financial support. In the end it benefits them, so its very worthwhile asking the question.”

The research, conducted by Graduate Careers Australia, also revealed that while slightly down on past years, around 87 per cent of postgraduates were in full-time employment four months after the completion of their studies.

GCA acting executive director, Bruce Guthrie, says these figures reflected the state of the economy at the time of the survey and had to be viewed in perspective.

“Although full-time postgraduate employment rates were down in 2009 compared with 2008, they remained much higher than those for either bachelor degree graduates or for individuals in the overall Australian labour force,” Guthrie says.

Postgraduate salaries
The overall median salary for all postgraduates was $68,600, an increase of $3600 from the 2008 figure of $65,000. The median salary of nurses for:
* postgraduate diploma/certificate graduates in nursing – basic was $67,000
* postgraduate diploma/certificate graduates in nursing – post was $60,000
* coursework masters graduates in nursing – basic was $75,000
* coursework masters graduates in nursing – post was $70,000
* research masters/PhD graduates in nursing – basic was $82,000

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