Top uni degrees to get a job and make money

There are all sorts of reasons for people to study what they study at uni – from the altruistic calling of social work to the desire to exercise justice through a law degree. But one of the main questions on everyone’s mind is: what degree will get me a job, and a job that pays well? We compiled the top 10 study areas based on which industry sectors have demonstrated the best graduate employment outcomes, according to the latest Australian Graduate Survey. Find out where the jobs and money are! 

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Median starting salary – $70,000+

Australia’s ageing population and high industry turnover rates mean that healthcare and medicine continue to top the list of most in-demand (and well remunerated!) graduates.

Those educated in the fields of pharmacy and medicine are particularly sought after, with around 98 per cent of bachelor degree holders securing full-time employment within four months of graduating.

If income alone is your incentive, then dentistry and optometry are your safest bets, with median starting salaries over $70,000. Other areas like paramedical studies and psychology also rank well.

Where qualified medical professionals are needed, so too is there a steady demand for allied health workers and researchers. If a marathon medical degree isn’t quite your style, consider pathways such as a Bachelor of Biomedical Science or Bachelor of Medical Science.

There are also shortages of midwives and enrolled nurses, so getting a nursing qualification could also be a great way to find ready employment.

Gloved hand holding slide
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Earth/environmental science

Median starting salary – $65,000

The mining industry is booming like never before, and with it comes ample opportunity for employment in Earth and environmental sciences. Encompassing everything from geology and meteorology to ecological sustainability, a degree in this field assures you a healthy income and strong employability. With a median starting salary increase of $11,000 between 2010-11, no other field of employment is growing so rapidly.

Cement your career chances with a Bachelor of Environmental Science or a Bachelor of Geoscience.

Engineering blueprint
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Median starting salary – $60,000

Engineering graduates continue to be highly sought after, thanks largely to demand in the mining sector and continuing skills shortages in areas such as mechanical, civil, electrical, petroleum and metallurgical engineering, and more.

Gain a grounding in core engineering skills with an Associate Degree in Engineering, a Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Engineering Technology.

Students with raised hands in a classroom
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Median starting salary – $55,000

At long last, learning is starting to equate with earning. Teachers, particularly in the fields of mathematics and science, as well as in early childhood education, remain in high demand. Considerable government HECS-HELP study incentives in these categories provide all the more reason to get involved in the education sector.

Start your journey with a Bachelor of Education (Secondary Mathematics) or a combined Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Teaching.

Wire telecommunications cabling
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IT/computer science

Median starting salary – $51,000

It seems almost impossible to contain the rate of technological innovation, from web technologies to games and application development, and beyond. Join the global information and technology systems movement, and earn a median starting salary of $51,000 in one of today’s most dynamic job markets.

A Diploma of Information Technology is a worthwhile starting point, or go further with a Bachelor of Technology (Computing Studies) or one of our many other IT qualifications.

Lawyer's gavel on chessboard
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Median starting salary – $51,000

Often touted as pillars of prestige and decorum, law graduates are more highly valued in the employment arena than ever. Relative to the 1977 median graduate starting salary for this sector, law graduates in professional and private practice have experienced a whopping 925.9 per cent increase – the highest income growth of any sector.

Exercise your jurisprudence with a Bachelor of Laws or a Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws.

Australian currency
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Median starting salary – $47,000

As long as there are profits to be tallied and taxes to be paid, number crunching remains a key graduate employment area. Financial services alone account for more than 400,000 Australian workers, so your stats look promising.

Get started with one of our many finance or accounting courses, such as the Bachelor of Accounting.

Businesspeople shaking hands
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Median starting salary – $47,000

Business is booming for graduates in the areas of commerce, entrepreneurial studies, international business and sustainable practice. There remains a significant salary differential of $27,000 between undergraduate and postgraduate salaries in this field, however, so be prepared to return to uni for your MBA or other postgrad qualification.

Launch your business career with a business qualification such as a Diploma of International Business or a Bachelor of Business.

Hard hat and blueprints
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Architecture/building & construction

Median starting salary – $46,000

Widespread population growth and concerns over ecological sustainability have seen the urban planning and development industries experience rapid growth, with surveyors in particularly high demand. You can lay the building blocks for a lucrative career with a median starting salary of $46,000.

Get involved behind the scenes with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Architectural Science), or for something more hands-on, try a Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building).

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Median starting salary – $45,600

Agriculture and its related industries comprise 12 per cent of Australia’s GDP, and accordingly, jobs are aplenty, with skills shortages to be found for agricultural scientists and consultants. You can study anything from viticulture to rural science in this burgeoning industry.

You can sow the seeds of a career in agriculture with a Bachelor of Agribusiness or a Bachelor of Ecological Agricultural Systems.

Get qualified and start earning

While an undergraduate degree should not simply be a means to raking in the big money, it’s in your interests to know where you will likely find employment. It’s worth keeping in mind that graduates who complete combined or double degrees are even more employable than those who do single degrees, so adding another string to your bow could really be worth your while. Postgraduate study is also a worthwhile investment, with postgraduate salaries higher than the salaries for bachelor degree graduates in every sector.

Bear in mind that a relatively low starting salary doesn’t mean things will stay that way throughout your career. Pharmacists, for example, rank as one of the lowest median starting salary earners at $37,000, but after completing their placement, go on to earn an average of $100,00 per year.

For more ways to get qualified and start earning, check out our full range of online courses.

Data sourced from Graduate Salaries 2011: A Report on the Earnings of New Australian Graduates in Their First Full-Time Employment and Postgraduate Destinations 2011, published by Graduate Careers Australia; and Skills Shortages Australia June 2012, published by DEEWR.

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