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Income Versus Education Level in Australia Today

Those students who aspire to full-time employment with better than average pay should stay in school, according to data gleaned from several Australian-based sources. Not only do young people who stay the course through Year 12 have a better chance at gaining full-time employment, those who continue their educations to complete a Bachelor degree or earn a vocational certificate are well positioned to capture higher paying careers.

Statistical Summary

According to a 2010 report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), more than one million people, or 78 percent of those in the 20-24 age group, had completed their education through Year 12. Because Year 12 completion contributes to a stronger economy powered by better educated workers, the Australian government has set a goal, through its National Education Agreement of 2009, to increase the percentage of Year 12 achievement among the 20-24 age group to 90% by the year 2015. (1)

Once a student has attained a Year 12 certificate, that individual is more likely to pursue higher education, either at university or in a vocational training program, than non-Year 12 students. As of 2010, the Australian Graduate Survey (AGS) reports that three-quarters of those students who achieved a Bachelor degree found full-time jobs within a few months of graduation. (2)

Those Australians who hold higher education degrees enjoy a far lower unemployment rate than general labourers. Additionally, those with higher education certificates can expect to earn higher incomes than those who left school at Year 12 or earlier.

Income and Education

In general, Australians with Bachelor degrees earn salaries that are fully 25 per cent higher than general labourers in similar age groups. AGS reports the average starting rate of pay in 2010 for an employee with a Bachelor degree is $49,000 per year.

Similarly, students who progress beyond Year 12 by pursuing a Vocational Education and Training qualification (VET) are setting themselves up for a higher-paying career that, according to the National Center for Vocational Education Research, is well worth the investment. To optimise the benefits of earning a VET, students should consider achieving a level III certificate or beyond. (4)

Best Bets in Career Choices

The AGS 2010 report reveals that Australians earning Bachelor degrees in medical and pharmacological fields stand the best chance of obtaining immediate employment. Fully 97 per cent of graduates with pharmacy and medically-related degrees found full-time jobs within only four months of graduation. The best-paying employment field in 2010 was dentistry, which on average paid new graduates a beginning wage of $75,000 per year.

An investment in education benefits individuals as well as the Australian economy. By achieving its goal of steadily increasing the percentage of Year 12 graduates to 90 per cent in 2015, the government is building a more educated workforce that will translate into a more robust economy. Individuals who earn their higher education degrees enjoy the benefits of a higher standard of living and the rewards of challenging career choices.


1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (March 2011). “Year 12 Attainment” (WWW page). http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features40Mar+2011

2. Graduate Careers Australia. Australian Graduate Survey (21 December 2010). “Graduate Employment Down in 2010” (Pdf document). 

3. Compare Courses. “Higher education and earnings” (WWW page). http://www.comparecourses.com.au/academic/higher-education-and-earnings.html

4. Long, M.l, and Shah, C. (18 July 2008). “Private Returns to Vocational Education and Training Qualifications” (WWW page). http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/2011.html

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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