Graduate Employment and Salary Outcomes

Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching (QILT) has just released its 2019 Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) Report, which measures the short- and medium-term employment outcomes of students graduating from Australian undergraduate and postgraduate university degrees in 2016.

The findings in the Report are consistent with previous QILT findings that since the Global Financial Crisis, students have taken longer to establish themselves successfully in full-time employment in their chosen careers. For 2016 undergraduates, 72.6 percent of those completing the GOS secured full-time employment four months after graduating, and 87.4 percent of graduates had secured employment.  Three years later, the same cohort had achieved 90.1 percent full-time employment and 93.3 percent overall employment.  These rates have remained relatively stable since 2007.

University graduates have significantly lower levels of unemployment than the general population, with 3.3 percent unemployment in graduates compared with 5.3% unemployment in the general population.  According to the Australian Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, over the last year more than 250,000 new jobs have been created, and university graduates have been the primary beneficiaries of those jobs.

The median salary of graduates in full-time employment four months after completing their undergraduate studies was $58,700 in 2016.  By 2019, this cohort of graduates achieved a median salary of $72,800, representing an average increase of 24 percent over the three-year period.  For postgraduate students, the median full-time salary four months after completion was $80,000, rising to $95,000 three years later.

Of the 40 universities participating in the GOS, Sydney University had the highest undergraduate employment rate, with 93.2 percent of students achieving full-time employment within three years of graduating. This was closely followed by the University of Notre Dame, the University of Queensland and Australian Catholic University.  Across all universities, undergraduate students of Medicine and Pharmacy had the highest rates of securing full-time employment within four months of completing studies. Within three years of graduating, Dentistry, Medicine and Law students achieved the highest rates of full-time employment.

The Report reveals significant disparity in gender pay both in the short- and medium-term results, both for undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students.  For male undergraduate students, the median salary four months post graduating is $60,000, and three years post graduating is $75,900. For females, median salaries are lower, being $57,500 (4.2 percent lower) and $71,000 respectively (6.5 percent lower). The gender differences are even more pronounced in postgraduate coursework students, with males earning a short-term median salary of $91,300 and medium-term median salary of $110,000, compared with females earning $75,800 (17 percent lower) and $89,700 (18.5 percent lower) respectively.  QILT suggests that these discrepancies are likely due to a range of factors, including occupation, age, experience, personal factors and possible inequalities within workplaces.

A recent report by KPMG, “She’s Price(d)less: the Economics of the Gender Pay Gap” sheds more light on the primary drivers of gender pay disparity in the Australian workforce.  KPMG report a “stubbornly flat” gender pay gap of between 14-19% over the past 20 years, meaning that women earn on average $241.50 less than men.” The report found that gender discrimination is the biggest contributor to inequality, accounting for almost 40% of the gender pay gap. Gender discrimination is defined as workplace culture, decisions in hiring and promotion, and access to career development opportunities.  Other major contributors identified in that report include years not working due to career interruptions (child-care and caring for elderly family members), part-time employment and unpaid work, as well as occupational and industrial segregation.

Despite the persistence of the gender pay gap in university graduates and employees more broadly as indicated above, increasing numbers of women in director roles are being recognised as being Australia’s most powerful directors. In a recently released list by consultants, Board Outlook, seven of the top ten most powerful Australian directors (by market capitalisation) were female. It will be interesting to observe whether changing leadership dynamic filters through to future graduates.