Full-time employment rate for university graduates plummets
The proportion of graduates in full-time employment four months after finishing their degrees has plummeted over the past decade to 72.9 per cent last year from as high as 85.2 per cent in 2008.
However, employment prospects for those with undergraduate degrees have bounced back slightly from a low of 68.1 per cent in 2014 and 71.8 per cent in 2017, which has been attributed to the economy recovering from the effects of the global financial crisis, according to the 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey.
Not all degrees and universities are equal when it comes to graduate outcomes, with the highest full-time employment rates of 97.2 per cent and 94.9 per cent being experienced by pharmacy and medicine undergraduates respectively, according to the survey, which were released on Friday by the Australian Department of Education and Training.
The university with the highest full-time employment rates for undergraduates immediately after finishing their degrees is Charles Sturt University, with an employment rate of 87.5 per cent, followed by Charles Darwin University with 83.2 per cent and the University of Sydney with 81 per cent.
On the flip side, the degrees with the lowest rates of full-time employment are creative arts, with a rate of 52.2 per cent, psychology with 60.3 per cent and communications with 60.6 per cent, the annual survey conducted under the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching survey program found after receiving more than 129,560 responses across 102 higher education institutions.
The universities with the lowest full-time employment outcomes are the University of Western Australia, Edith Cowan University and Torrens University, with full-time employment rates of 55.4 per cent, 57.8 per cent and 61.6 per cent, according to the 2018 report.
Edith Cowan’s pro-vice-chancellor for education Angela Hill said Western Australian universities “continue to be affected by the downturn in the state economy”.
“To address this … [ECU has launched an initiative that] includes aligning courses to the future needs of the labour market, embedding career development in all courses and deeper engagement with industry,” Professor Hill said.
The median salary for undergraduates in full-time employment is $61,000, up only slightly from $60,000 in 2017. The median for postgraduate coursework students is $83,300 and this rises to $90,000 for postgraduate research students.
The gender gap in median salaries for undergraduates is $3000, a significant increase from $1100 in 2017. The gender gap is even starker for postgraduates, with a gap of $13,500 for coursework students.
Undergraduate full-time starting salaries are highest for dentistry students, who have an overall median income of $83,700, which rises to $102,000 for male students and is $78,000 for female students.
This is followed by medicine, with a starting median salary of $73,000 and social work, with a starting salary of $65,600.
The lowest starting salaries are for pharmacy, with a median of $47,000, creative arts, with $50,100, and communications, with $52,800.
Charles Darwin University produced undergraduates with the highest median starting salary of $68,000, followed by the University of Tasmania, with $67,800, the University of Southern Queensland, with $67,700 and the University of New England, with $66,800.
The disparity in starting salaries by university is likely influenced by factors such as course offerings, the student population and variations in the local labour market, according to the report.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the 17,000 students receiving a university offer on Friday “should be congratulated”.
“Everyone who received a university offer today should see it as an incredible opportunity and a stepping stone to realising their ambitions,” he said.
Acting chief executive of peak body Universities Australia, Anne-Marie Lansdown welcomed the rise in full-time employment rates for undergraduates over the past four years.
“As the economy recovers from the global financial crisis, graduate employment rates and their salaries have continued to climb,” Ms Lansdown said.
Along with the slight improvement in full-time employment rates over the past four years, the proportion of undergraduate students who are underemployed, that is, working part-time but seeking more hours, also fell slightly to 19.2 per cent in 2018 from 20.5 per cent in 2016.
Of these, 23 per cent said they were underemployed “because there were no suitable jobs in their area of expertise”, indicating a misalignment between job availability and the number of graduates in particular fields.
Among undergraduates in full-time or part-time work, more than 60 per cent of those with a psychology degree were likely to report their skills were not being fully used in their job.
Nearly 55 per cent of science and maths graduates also reported their skills were not being fully used, as did 54.5 per cent of humanities, culture and social sciences graduates and 54 per cent of tourism, hospitality and personal services graduates.
First published by Sydney Morning Herald