Postgraduate study is a big investment of your time. It can bring personal rewards and rewards for your patients, workplace and career. But does it also bring financial rewards? Nursing Review takes a look at some of the financial rewards available after nursing postgraduate study.

Thousands of nurses have invested thousands of hours and, in a number of cases, thousands of dollars into postgraduate study.

There are many motivations, both personal and professional, for taking the postgraduate path, but as there is no automatic pay jump for nurses who complete a postgraduate certificate, diploma or master’s degree,  immediate financial reward is probably not high amongst them.

Postgraduate study can open the door to career progression – for example, taking on an advanced practice role such as clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner or, more recently, nurse prescriber – or to other roles such as nurse educator and nursing school lecturer, and to positions in nursing management.  

PDRP: Expert level allowances

There are national expectations that, before applying for expert level on most professional development recognition programmes (PDRPs), a nurse will have completed postgraduate study, or its equivalent. A nurse approved at an expert PDRP level receives: 

  • NZNO DHB MECA: an extra $2.16 an hour on base pay ($4,500 for a standard 40-hour week)
  • NZNO PHC MECA: an extra $2.10 an hour on base pay rate
  • PSA DHB Nurse MECA: an extra $2.88 an hour ($6,000 a year) N.B. Only for expert nurses approved by 1 October 2017; it then drops to $2.16 pro-rata.

Senior nurse pay scales

Postgraduate study can be an employment requirement for joining and progressing through the grades of a DHB’s senior nurse pay salary scale.  

  • NZNO DHB MECA: senior nurse salary scale $70,871 to $114,967
  • PSA DHB Nurse MECA: senior nurse salary scale $75,013 to $113,486

Salary differences between nurses with graduate and postgraduate qualifications

The Ministry of Education has an ongoing project monitoring the income and employment trends for graduates by analysing the anonymous tax and tertiary education data of young people graduating from 2003-4 onwards.

The extensive data includes looking at the average top, mid and bottom income for young nurses 10 years after they have graduated with a nursing degree or with a postgraduate certificate or diploma in nursing. (No specific data is available for master’s degrees in nursing.)

N.B. The study focuses on young people, so 10 years after graduating these nurses will be aged roughly between 31 and 36 and a number may be working part-time so the income levels may reflect that.

Low to top nurse income range 10 years after graduating with:

  • an undergraduate degree: $28,082 to $70,391
  • a postgraduate certificate/diploma: $41,759 to $83,693.


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