Job survey shows power of a degree

June 23, 2000

Australian graduates in their first job now earn an average of A$32,500 (Pounds 13,000) a year - 8 per cent more than their less well-educated peers - a survey has found.

Graduates also continue to enjoy a privileged position in the labour market, with an unemployment rate of only 3 per cent - less than half that of the Australian workforce as a whole.

In its annual survey of Australians who completed their university courses for the first time last year, the Graduate Careers Council of Australia found that graduate starting salaries relative to average earnings were now at their highest level since 1992.

New bachelor degree-holders had a median salary just under 82 per cent of average full-time earnings - up by 1 per cent on 1998.

The survey revealed that starting salaries for young males continued to be greater on average than those for females. While the median salary for male graduates was A$32,500 - up from A$31,000 in 1998 - women earned an average of A$30,000 (no change on the previous year). The salary differential of 8 per cent is also widening and is down from almost 3 per cent in 1998 and 5 per cent the year before.

In the general working population, the average salary for men working full-time is A$37,960 - a third more than that of women, which is A$25,051. A report on the survey findings says the differences in starting salaries for graduates can be partly explained in terms of the differing enrolment profiles of the sexes.

Males tend to enrol in the more high-paying fields of study, whereas women tend to graduate from the middle and less well-paid fields. Of all male respondents to the survey, 42.5 per cent graduated in the ten highest paying fields of study compared with only 25.4 per cent of female respondents.

The report notes that the choice of field of study is dependent on numerous factors, including perceived gender roles and career decisions based on role stereotypes. Within a particular field, some of the salary differences may be a result of a "systematic preference for work in different areas of a profession, or for work in different types of practice".

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