Working hard for the money

As student debt continues to rise in Australia, the question many people are asking is - does tertiary education really pay?

There are a variety of avenues in which you can bolster your future earnings potential, but if you’re considering investing in yourself through further education, here’s some food for thought.

Do I need a tertiary education?

The first thing to ask yourself is - does the field you want to enter require tertiary qualifications. If you can get where you want through alternate routes, these may be worth exploring.

Networking opportunities, new friends, added job opportunities, and the discipline and routine further education can provide can be very appealing.

If you decide not to study straight after school, there’s also the option of studying later on if your profession requires it.

How might it impact my career and future income?

The majority of graduates in Australia work as managers and professionals which typically attracts higher wages and salaries, AMP.NATSEM research shows.

In the early stages of a career average annual income across education levels ranges between $48,000 and $62,000. Those with a Bachelor Degree earn more than all other categories, with those holding a Postgraduate Degree often surpassing those with a Bachelor Degree between the ages of 35 and 39.

The AMP.NATSEM projections below look at qualification against estimated lifetime earnings.

Qualification Projected lifetime earnings 
Postgraduate Degree  $3.17 million
Bachelor Degree  $2.9 million 
Year 11 or less  $1.74 million

How would I support myself financially?

Tertiary education, like most things, comes with a price tag. You want to consider how it will impact existing work and living arrangements and whether you can afford to pay upfront.

Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows:

  • The main source of income for 61% of higher education students is a wage or salary
  • For 15% of students, the main source of income is a Government pension or allowance
  • Around 5% receive no income and support themselves through their own savings or via assistance from their parents or a partner.

Can I delay paying my education fees?

Australia’s Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), previously and often still referred to as HECS (The Higher Education Contribution Scheme) enables students to defer payment of fees for certain courses until they’re earning an income above a certain level.

Research shows the average HELP debt for a tertiary student is approximately $17,500, with the average time taken to repay a HELP debt around 8.7 years. 1

The value of these loans are projected to grow to $43.6 billion in 2016‑17.2

How many people are completing tertiary studies?

More than 44 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds have achieved a tertiary education, compared to 29.6 per cent of 55 to 64 year olds, AMP.NATSEM figures show.

The number of people with a university-level degree has also increased from 17 per cent to 23.7 per cent over the past decade, with over 3.5 million Australians now holding a Bachelor Degree or higher.

Useful tools

  • If you’re considering how further education might impact your bank account, our budget calculator and savings calculator may be able to assist
  • ASIC’s MoneySmart website has further tips which may be able to help you with government study assistance, managing education debt and living on a student budget
  • You may also be able to claim a deduction for self-education expenses if your study is work-related.

While contemplating whether or not to embark on further studies, remember that regardless of your post-graduation earning capacity, knowledge is power. 

Budget planner calculator

Use our Budget planner calculator to assess your current financial position and how much you may be able to invest. 

Start budgeting today

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© AMP Life Limited. This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, AMP does not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, AMP does not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person.