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Australian graduate employment prospects
Whether you’re nearing the end of your degree or have just begun university study, you’ll know that graduation is usually synonymous with job hunting. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about your chances of gaining employment, read on to see how recent graduates from your field of study have fared after course completion.
Job prospects for recent graduates
The most recent Australian Graduate Survey (Graduate Careers Australia, 2011) surveyed more than 168,000 graduates who completed their degree in 2010. Respondents were asked about their employment activities four months after course completion, including whether or not they had attained full-time work and, if so, what their starting salary was.
- On average, 76.6 per cent of 2010 bachelor degree graduates found full-time work within four months. Among the highest-ranking fields were mining engineering with 98.2 per cent, medicine at 98.0 per cent, pharmacy at 97.3 per cent and surveying at 92.9 per cent. Graduates in the fields of humanities and languages fared slightly worse, with rates of 64.7 per cent and 65.0 per cent respectively.
- The average graduate starting salary in 2011 was $50,000 — a slight increase from $49,000 in 2010. Some of the highest paid fields include dentistry at $80,000, optometry at $70,000 and earth sciences at $65,000. Lower-paid fields include agricultural science at $45,600 and art and design at $40,000.
- Graduates who completed a combined or double degree were better off than those who completed a single degree, with employment figures sitting at almost 82 per cent — six per cent higher than graduates of single degrees (75.9 per cent).
- On average, around a fifth of graduates go onto further full-time study each year. This is more common in some fields than others, with more than 30 per cent of humanities graduates moving onto further study in 2011, compared to just 9.2 per cent of mechanical engineering graduates. One reason for this is that graduates of more generalist degrees often choose to specialise in a particular field through further study.
Did you know that some of the Good Universities Guide ratings are based on the Australian Graduate Survey data? Explore your preferred fields of study by visiting the University Ratings section and use the Field of Study Ratings drop-down menu to learn more about your options.
How to improve your job prospects
Don’t despair if your field of study has a low graduate employment rate. The same strategies tend to apply across each field, which means that previous work experience, industry and community involvement, eagerness to learn on the job and illustrating your long-term career goals will always help when looking for a job. Some fields, such as design, are very competitive, and many graduates find that undertaking unpaid, freelance or casual work in the industry is a necessary first step. Adding an internship or casual position to your résumé shows employers that you’re keen to find work within the industry. You can also improve your chances of gaining employment by taking advantage of your university’s career services, including job advertisement websites, career advisers and career fairs.
If your starting salary is lower than you expected…
If you’ve spent three or four years buried in text books only to find a low salary at the end of the tunnel, you should consider the bigger picture — going to uni should not simply be a means to gaining a high salary, nor does a high salary necessarily mean that you will be happy in your job. The Good Universities Guide 2012 found that many fields with below-average starting salaries boasted high graduate satisfaction ratings — veterinary science, for example, received four stars for graduate satisfaction despite a salary more than $5000 below the $50,000 average.
You should also remember that a low starting salary doesn’t mean that your salary will remain low throughout your career. Pharmacists, for example, begin their career on a $37,000 salary while completing 12 months of practical training, but recent salary statistics show that the average salary of a qualified pharmacist is just over $100,000 (My Career, 2012).