STARTING salaries for university and polytechnic graduates hit a new high last year, according to preliminary figures in the Manpower Ministry's annual report on wages.

University graduates had a median monthly starting pay of $3,000. This is up from $2,900 the year before, when wages - which fell in 2009 - returned to pre-crisis levels.

Polytechnic graduates earned a median starting pay of $1,850, up from $1,800 the year before.

Those who entered the workforce after national service (NS) drew $2,100, up from $2,000.

However, starting pay stagnated at $1,600 a month for post-NS Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates. For fresh graduates, it rose only marginally to $1,300, from $1,291.

Mr David Ang, executive director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, said the stagnation was not cause for alarm, as 'the current levels (of pay) are quite reasonable'.

Their starting pay might have stagnated last year because there were large increases previously, he said. The starting pay for ITE graduates in 2007 was $1,400 for post-NS graduates and $1,217 for fresh graduates.

The report, released yesterday, compiled data from surveys by the institutes of higher learning.

Among those from four-year degree programmes - not including law and medicine - the highest median starting pay was $3,500. This was the sum drawn by aerospace engineering graduates from Nanyang Technological University, and industrial and systems engineering graduates from the National University of Singapore.

The Government has been encouraging investment in those fields, and creating demand for specialist skills, said Mr Yousef Ayub, head of Kelly Engineering Resources which is part of recruitment firm Kelly Services.

The highest-paid polytechnic graduates were in the health sciences: optometry ($2,950), and diagnostic radiography or radiation therapy ($2,300).

For ITE graduates, post-NS graduates with a Higher Nitec in information technology had the highest starting pay of $1,731.

Employment rates were highest for polytechnic graduates, at over 92 per cent. But more university graduates landed full-time jobs compared to their polytechnic counterparts.

Of university graduates, 86.4 per cent found full-time permanent jobs, while just 67 per cent of fresh polytechnic graduates and 80.1 per cent of post-NS ones did so.