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The Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya is evidently the best place in Israel to study computers, at least in terms of earnings. Two years after graduating alums were grossing an average of NIS 15,250 a month. The first survey of its kind was conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics for the Israel Council for Higher Education.

Earning potential is a key factor for many students when choosing a school or program. Institutions of higher education in the West commonly present average starting salaries for their graduates, but in Israel that information hadn't been available, until now.

The survey processed employment and salary data for graduates who earned Bachelor's degrees in the arts and sciences in Israeli universities and colleges. Only parts of the survey have been released for publication.

The figures are impressive, but it should be noted that for the sake of simplification certain fields were consolidated, for example engineering together with architecture, and mathematics with statistics and computer sciences. Also, the bureau completely omitted publishing data on certain areas, such as law.

The survey shows that graduates of the Open University are among the best remunerated (as seen two years after graduation). The authors point out, however, that for a number of reasons the institution's alumni cannot be compared to those of other school. For one, students at the Open University tend to be older individuals who are already employed.

Fascinating as the results are, they do beg certain qualifications. Professor Dalia Mor, head of the Academic Track MA program at the College of Management, feels that the consolidation of certain areas may skew the results. For example, graduates of the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya may lead in "mathematics, statistics and computer sciences" - but in fact neither mathematics nor statistics are taught at the school.

Another example is the College of Management, whose graduates are the lowest earners in the field of "engineering and architecture," neither of which are taught there. (What the college offers is design.)

Yaacov Bergman, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem School of Business Administration school, is more appreciative of the survey. "The fact that a comparison like this was never published before is an oversight," he says.

The Council for Higher Education explicitly prohibited comparison between curricula for the sake of ranking, he says. The outcome was that competition between the institutions was hampered. What the survey accomplishes is to enhance competition and improve service to students and the public, in Bergman's view.

The council's purpose in organizing the survey was to improve transparency, explains Steven Stav, director-general of the Council for Higher Education.

Breakdown by major

As a blanket statistic, university or college graduates with a BA or BSc in hand gross an average of NIS 8,800 a month two years after graduation. That's just a bit over the average wage. But the differences between the various areas of study can be large.

Graduates of computer science lead the list, with average wages that are 28% higher than graduates of natural sciences, who earn the least among those surveyed.

The second best paying discipline is engineering and architecture. One might have assumed that graduates of the prestigious Israel Institute of Technology, the Technion, in Haifa, would lead the list. They do not. The Central Bureau of Statistics figures place Technion grads in this (consolidated) field only in 5th place, with average pay of NIS 11,670 a month.

Graduates of the Ariel University Center of Samaria were in fourth place, grossing NIS 11,900 a month on average.

Among the business administration schools, Hebrew University graduates earn the most, grossing an average of NIS 11,000 a month.

Moving onto engineering and architecture, we find the best-paid grads to be from Tel Aviv University, with a monthly gross of NIS 11,125.

Technion grads lead in social sciences, with NIS 8,833 a month. The Technion grads also lead in education and teacher training, with average monthly pay of NIS 7,375 after two years.

Grads of humanities from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev win with a monthly gross of NIS 7,917 a month.

Among the worst earners are graduates of the natural sciences, but while on that field, the best-paid grads are from Bar-Ilan University, with a monthly gross of NIS 5,458 on average.

One institution that stands out on the downside, from the perspective of graduates' pay after two years, is Tel Aviv University. Its students of engineering and architecture are in first place. But in other important disciplines - business administration, social sciences, mathematics, statics and computer sciences - TAU grads are in fourth place.

While about it, the Central Bureau of Statistics survey checked integration into the workforce among graduates. It found that 80% of university graduates had found work after two years, but almost half said their jobs weren't related to the disciplines they'd studied. Among graduates of academic colleges, the proportion who'd found work was higher: 88%.

Finally, the bureau looked at grads' level of satisfaction with the teaching and study environment of their alma maters. Graduates of the colleges were, to generalize, more satisfied than the graduates of the universities, at 90% and 78%, respectively.