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Further study by graduates and its impact on career outcomes

A 2020 analysis by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) examined employment outcomes for a group of 161,000 people who graduated university in 2011.

In 2021 the ABS analysed further study and career choices made by this graduate cohort between 2012 and 2015.

Graduate study outcomes

Explore the outcomes of further study undertaken by 2011 graduates between 2012 and 2015. 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (unpublished data) 2021

Data insights

Study choices

The ABS’s analysis aims to understand the additional study choices of men and women from the 2011 graduate cohort, as well as the resulting career outcomes.

Important insights into study choices:

  • 23% of women and men who completed a qualification (in any field) in 2011 completed a second qualification between 2012 and 2015.
  • 38% of women who completed a STEM qualification in 2011 completed a second qualification between 2012 and 2015 (compared to 24% of STEM-qualified men).
  • 29% of women who completed a STEM qualification in 2011 returned to study in a STEM field between 2012 and 2015, (compared to 27% of men).
  • For women who completed a STEM qualification in 2011, the most popular field of further study was health (31%) followed by education (13%).
  • Just over half of men (53%) and almost two-thirds (64%) of women who completed a second STEM qualification did so at undergraduate level.
  • 60% of people who completed an additional STEM qualification between 2012 and 2015 did so at a postgraduate level.

Career outcomes

Completing a second field of STEM study had the following relationship to being employed in STEM in 2016:

  • Only 29% of women who completed further studies in STEM were employed in STEM occupations (compared with 37% of men).
  • 49% of women who completed further studies in STEM moved into a non-STEM occupation (compared with 39% of men).
  • 40% of women (and 46% of men) who had completed 2 STEM qualifications were employed as professionals (as defined by ANZSCO major groups).
  • 57% of women (and 53% of men) whose first qualification was in STEM but second qualification was in a non-STEM field were employed as professionals.

Income after study

The income of graduates who completed further study between 2012 and 2015 was measured in the 2015–16 financial year.

61% of women (and 59% of men) who completed a STEM qualification in 2011 were earning below $50,000 if they had done further study.  It may be too soon to notice the full impact of further study on income. However, women were more likely to have experienced less wage growth than men if they had not undertaken further study.

Over half (53%) of the women who completed a STEM qualification in 2011 and didn’t do any further study earned under $50,000. This compares to 38% of 2011 STEM-qualified men who didn’t do any further study.

Effects of unemployment on professional career outcomes

The ABS analysed 2016 professional outcomes for people, based on their employment status from 2012 to 2015 and if they had undertaken further study within that period.

  • People that had a break for unemployment (between 2012 and 2015) and had done further study were twice as likely to be employed as a professional (in 2016) than those that had a break for unemployment and did not do further study.
  • Only about 20% of graduates who had a break for unemployment (between 2012 and 2015) and didn’t do any further study were employed as professionals (in 2016).
  • However, 40% of women graduates (and 37% of men) who had a break for unemployment (between 2012 and 2015) but did further study (in 2016) were employed as professionals.

For people that had no break for unemployment between 2012 and 2015, there was a marked improvement in likelihood of being employed as a professional in 2016. This was more pronounced for women if they had undertaken further study between 2012 and 2015.

  • 46% of women (employed between 2012 and 2015) who did not do further study were employed as professionals in 2016, compared to 55% of men.
  • However, 54% of women (employed between 2012 and 2015) who did further study and did not take a break for unemployment were employed as professionals in 2016, compared to 53% of men.

About the data

Our department commissioned the ABS for this longitudinal study. The ABS examined the occupational outcomes of the 2011 cohort of university graduates from 2012 to 2016.

To do this, the ABS analysed the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) Modular Product (2011–2016). This is a linked dataset providing anonymised and aggregated analysis of:

  • 2011 higher education data
  • 2016 Census of Population and Housing data
  • 2010–11 to 2015–16 personal income tax data

This allowed the ABS to determine income, occupation and industry details from 2011 until 2016. Outcomes for each variable of analysis have been explored using one of these datasets.

Linkage of datasets is based on:

  • the data quality for the particular variable
  • the highest level of linked records with 2011 higher education data.

This may result in differences in the total numbers and proportions reported.

We have grouped qualifications into STEM, non-STEM and health. We have also used more detailed information for analysis where possible. Definitions of education, occupation and industry are consistent with our methodology.

Figures from this data cannot be directly compared to the career break and occupation and industry outcomes data. This is because people who completed a second qualification in 2016 were excluded from this analysis to avoid confusion between 2016 study outcomes and completions.

Read more about our methodology and this data.

Read about the ABS’ Multi-Agency Data Integration Project.