PAID BY DEGREE
Experience pays off for graduates –
UNIVERSITY graduates who have experience in a full-time job are being paid up to $20,000 more a year than those starting out on their first job, graduate surveys reveal.
The research, undertaken by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA), proves employers are willing to pay a premium for experience.
The surveys found bachelor degree graduates who did not have prior work experience received a median salary of $1000 less per year, or $45,000, compared with graduates with a work history, even in an unrelated field.
Inexperienced jobseekers with postgraduate diplomas or certificates also earn a median salary of $50,000 a year, or $10,000 less than those with experience. Those who have completed a research master’s or PhD program can expect to earn $4000 less, or $61,000 a year, if they have no prior work experience.
Graduates from coursework master’s degrees, going into their first full-time job in their field of study, earn a median salary of $50,000 a year, or $20,000 less, when compared with all postgraduates who have held down a full-time job.
Australian Institute of Management SA chief executive John Stokes says experience normally will override the qualification.
‘‘It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. Jobseekers have to get that first job in order to put some runs on the board,’’ he says. ‘‘Unfortunately, people might have qualifications without the experience and it’s unlikely they will move on to the short list (of candidates granted an interview).’’
Mr Stokes says most employers want the perfect employee who can hit the ground running.
The UK Learning and Skills Council also has researched the trend, finding 90 per cent of employers believe work experience is a key part of any job application.
Thirteen per cent of bosses say they would not interview a candidate without it. University of Adelaide careers service manager Susan Hervey, however, says other factors are just as important.
She points to a survey last year by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers that showed employers rated factors such as oral communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills above relevant work experience. ‘‘Experience is a bonus and can command small premiums on top of a graduate base salary,’’ she says.
‘‘The GCA survey reflects the general inclination of employers towards hiring those applicants with more experience, which occurs for most vacancies, but not at the expense of educational qualifications.
‘‘The daily contact between the University of Adelaide’s careers service and graduate recruiters makes it very clear employers place a high value on educational qualifications.’’ GCA research manager Bruce Guthrie says experience does pay, but adds undertaking postgraduate studies also is becoming increasingly desirable for employers.
‘‘Relevant employment experience can still be used to differentiate candidates in the labour market, even when they have postgraduate qualifications,’’ he says.
To cover all bases, Mr Stokes encourages those without experience to undertake work placements while studying. He says work experience should last at least two months to be considered worthwhile.
‘‘And if they do a really good job (in work experience) there’s the potential to get offered a (permanent) job,’’ he says.
University of SA Bachelor of Law student Ryan Dow has been doing work experience in the legal arena since he was in Year 11 and believes it will stand him in good stead. Mr Dow, who expects to complete his degree next year, is applying to do work experience as a judge’s associate. While studying his degree, he also has undertaken amonth of work experience with a commercial lawyer and was a paid research assistant with a Monash University professor, researching legal class actions.
‘‘I would say negotiating pay (after graduating and getting a job) would be easier with all this experience,’’ he says. ‘‘I’ve had the opportunity to learn skills vital to practise (law) but they’re not the sort of things you can pick up in a classroom, so that will benefit me.’’
Law student Ryan Dow has been doing work experience in the legal arena since he was in Year 11. Picture: TAIT SCHMAAL