STEM graduates earn more money and are more likely to land a job.
This was the message from The Good Education Group, which released its first Good Careers Guide today.
Figures showed people with science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) qualifications — whether from university or a vocational trainer — fared better than their non-STEM counterparts.
For university graduates, the highest average starting salaries were in dentistry ($77,000), medicine ($62,624), engineering ($62,102), surveying ($60,049) and rehabilitation ($59,603).
This compared to a $52,840 average.
For vocational graduates, the highest average starting salaries were in information technology ($51,700), engineering ($51,100), education ($49,500), architecture and building ($48,200) and health ($47,400).
This compared to a $46,900 average.
Good Education Group data manager Ross White said STEM graduates typically had more specialised and transferable skills so were in demand across more industries yet not enough people pursued these fields.
He said there were more people with business and management degrees alone than people with computing and IT, engineering and technology, mathematics and science degrees combined.
STEM careers also had higher employment rates.
University graduates most likely to have a job after university were in medicine (97 per cent), pharmacy (91 per cent), surveying (78 per cent), dentistry (77 per cent) and nursing/rehabilitation (76 per cent).
Meanwhile, those most likely to have a job after vocational training were in education (86 per cent), architecture and building (86 per cent), engineering (83 per cent), agriculture, environmental and related studies (81 per cent) and health (79 per cent).
Good Education Group chief executive Chris Lester said it was important more students explored STEM careers.
“With the government’s renewed focus on the importance of studying STEM subjects, it seems students would do well to consider these fields — both for positive employment and salary outcomes,” he said.
University of Adelaide Careers Service manager Sue Hervey said students took many factors into consideration when choosing a degree and starting salary was only one of them.
“It’s not as important as many people might think,” she said.
“In the most recent annual survey by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers, graduates listed long-term career prospects, reputation of an employer, training and development, and work content as the most important factors for them. Salary was listed by only one per cent of graduates as being the most important factor.”
Final year dental student Austin Yoo, 22, was surprised that dentists earned so much in their first year after graduation.
He said salary was not a consideration when he chose his undergraduate degree with the University of Adelaide.
“With dentistry, you have to really enjoy what you are doing because you will be doing it for a significant part of your life,” he said.
“Money doesn’t necessarily buy you happiness.
“If you choose it for the possibility of earning a higher salary, you are better off choosing something you have an interest in.”
Dr Yastira Lalla, who has a Bachelor of Dental Science, Master of Philosophy in Oral Oncology and is now studying a Doctorate of Clinical Dentistry in Dento-Maxillofacial Radiology at the University of Queensland, said salary didn’t factor into her career decision.
“I knew that dentistry was a stable job but I never chased the money,” she said.
“I always believed in following an area (I) already had interest in.
“Study has (been) challenging — it seems to increase as I move further up the academic ladder — but pursuing STEM comes with unique rewards, such as seeing your hard work published in journals, presenting your work at conferences to show others what you have achieved and of course graduation.”
The Good Careers Guide, which replaces the now-defunct Job Guide, provides education and career information and is available at goodcareersguide.com.au