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Uni courses for the most profitable career

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The more things change the more they don’t, especially when it comes to graduate earning potential says the Grattan Institute’s Mapping Australian Higher Education report.

Solid professions like nursing continued to see pay levels on the up while commerce and science only fared slightly better than humanities and performing arts graduates.

Education and nursing qualifications led to good-quality jobs, with a high proportion of graduates in professional and managerial employment over the decade after graduation. But job quality deteriorated for graduates in most other disciplines. Male graduates in commerce and science fared poorly, with the proportion in professional and managerial jobs falling by about 10 percentage points for men. In science, about 60% of employed graduates had a professional or managerial job in 2016.

For early-career graduates (aged 25 to 34), medicine, nursing and education are the only disciplines in which earnings grew between 2006 and 2016 for both men and women. Earnings for female early-career graduates grew in more disciplines than for men, but by the most – about 10% – in nursing and education. The net earnings of early-career science and commerce graduates fell 5% for men and 1 to 2% for women. For science, more graduates doing further study partly explains this poor result.

For both genders, median-income humanities and performing arts graduates still earn the least, while law and medicine graduates still earn the most. Engineering and commerce degrees can lead to very high lifetime income, although less so for women. Nursing and education graduates don’t earn very high incomes.

For the male median-income graduate, earnings didn’t rise much over the decade except for education, law, nursing and medicine. But only 20% of men with a bachelor degree have qualifications in these fields.

For the female median-income graduate, expected lifetime earnings grew in more disciplines, but by the most in education, nursing, engineering and medicine. Nearly 50% of women with a bachelor degree have qualifications in these fields.

Some disciplines did better than others over the decade because of rates of full-time work. The proportion of early-career graduates in full-time work grew for education and medicine, and more so for women than men, but fell for graduates in other disciplines. The proportion of early-career nursing graduates in full-time work fell over the decade, although the underlying drop in average hours worked was small. Strong wage growth in health partly offset the financial effects of fewer hours at work.


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