A large proportion of the nation’s freshly graduated workers are employed in roles well below their level of education, leading to a significant shortfall in earning according to new research from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and John Curtin University.

The research paper, jointly written by UWA’s Ian Li and Curtin’s Paul Miller, examined how much the field of study and type of university attended matched job attainment.

It found a large proportion of graduates are employed in jobs which require a lower level of education than a university degree, and that this kind of over-education can result in a 12 per cent reduction in earnings.

The study, which used data from Graduate Destination Surveys circulated to graduates every year from 1999-2009, found that nurses are the least likely group to be over-educated, while those in the natural and physical sciences are the most likely to be over-educated.

"The results showed a large disparity according to the field studied," said Assistant Professor Li, of UWA's School of Population Health.  "In comparison to the benchmark category of management and commerce graduates, nurses were 46 per cent less likely to be over-educated, while natural and physical science graduates were 12 per cent more likely to be over-educated."