We have found that much of what students know about salaries and employability at graduation is guided by belief, rather than facts and figures. In general, students tend choose courses with the highest entry requirement they can access with their ATAR. In theory, the higher the ATAR, the better the course, and the better the employment outcome.
If you’re a high-achieving student, you may be considering a courses that has a high ATAR cut-off score. Perhaps you’re re-considering your course options because you may not get the ATAR you had initially hoped for. Regardless, it’s important to note that the ATAR cut-off for courses are an indication of the popularity of a course – it doesn’t necessarily reflect how good your options will be once you graduate.
When looking at graduate outcomes, such as employment rate or a high starting salary, the courses with high ATAR requirements don’t necessarily deliver the best outcomes — well, not straight away.
In 2020–2021, a degree in Social Work had an average ATAR entry score of 71, making it reasonably accessible compared to Law or Medicine. However, the median starting salary for graduates of Social Work was actually among the highest of all fields of study — $65,400*. The average ATAR cut-off for Law students is 87, yet the median graduate starting salary is $62,000.
Law students earn less at graduation (this is also true for many fields with high entry requirements), but there are many factors to consider — for example, it’s more than likely that Law graduates who make it into the field will eventually earn more than Social Work graduates.
Another example: The average ATAR for Teaching is 70 compared to 80 for Engineering, yet students from both fields have the same employment rate of 87% at graduation.
The above examples provide a general insight into how numbers and cut-off scores aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to what happens after you graduate. In fact, we have found many universities that outperform the national average for employment outcomes in specific fields of study — and many of these require a lower-than-average ATAR score.
If you’d like to access our full comparison of ATARs and employment outcomes, you can visit our dashboard here.
* Salary and employment data have been sourced from pooled results of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Graduate Outcomes Survey