Revealed: Australia's highest paying industries

Australian cities are burgeoning, and with that comes the need for more houses, better transport and public services, such as education. And where you find increased demand, you often find increased wages.

Annual data collected by SEEK shows which industries have recorded the strongest salary growth over the past five years and which ones have slowed.

NAB’s Chief Economist of Markets, Ivan Colhoun, helps explain why those working in Education & Training, Community Services & Development and Design & Architecture have enjoyed the strongest wage growth since 2013.

SEEK’s average advertised salaries are up 19% for Education & Training, 16% for Community Services & Development and just under 16% for Design & Architecture.

Colhoun says many of Australia’s cities have grown by 20% or more over the past 10 years, and that’s created a need for strong spending on infrastructure.

“The nation’s population has been increasing at about 1.6 to 1.8% a year for the last 10 years,” says Colhoun.

“That’s over 375,000 people a year – or more than a new Canberra every year - so population growth has been very strong.”

Which industries pay the most?

Mining, Resources & Energy is the highest paying industry with the average advertised salary now at $116,000 a year.

Consulting & Strategy, Construction and Engineering make up the Top 4 in the highest paid industries list, however all show the average salaries advertised in these sectors have reduced.

None have slumped as much as the mining industry, which five years ago had an average advertised wage of close to $135,000, that’s a drop of almost 14% since 2013.

The only other industry to crack the $100,000 average salary was Information & Communication Technology (ICT), which sits in fifth place. It’s average advertised salary has risen 7% since 2013 and Colhoun believes it has more good years ahead.

“People are using technology more in every business,” he says.

“People are looking to save costs and automate so you need to have ICT skills in your business.”

Average salary across Australian industries: 2013 vs 2018

Average salary by industry: 2013 vs 2018
+/- %
Accounting $81,597 $84,559 3.63%
Administration & Office Support $51,627 $58,671 13.64%
Advertising, Arts & Media $73,819 $76,342 3.42%
Banking & Financial Services $82,731 $91,516 10.62%
Call Centre & Customer Service $52,750 $58,942 11.74%
Community Services & Development $63,494 $73,691 16.06%
Construction $111,292 $109,325 -1.77%
Consulting & Strategy $110,433 $110,045 -0.35%
Design & Architecture $71,737 $83,055 15.78%
Education & Training $69,238 $82,498 19.15%
Engineering $113,667 $105,810 -6.91%
Farming, Animals & Conservation $67,602 $74,933 10.84%
Government & Defence $81,974 $91,377 11.47%
Healthcare & Medical $83,076 $88,722 6.80%
Hospitality & Tourism $55,090 $61,944 12.44%
Human Resources & Recruitment $85,729 $85,143 -0.68%
Information & Communication Technology $97,733 $104,874 7.31%
Insurance & Superannuation $75,879 $85,963 13.29%
Legal $94,841 $95,870 1.09%
Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics $73,358 $71,696 -2.27%
Marketing & Communications $84,661 $87,750 3.65%
Mining, Resources & Energy $134,954 $116,108 -13.96%
Real Estate & Property $66,108 $75,100 13.60%
Retail & Consumer Products $55,558 $60,704 9.26%
Sales $80,859 $82,448 1.96%
Science & Technology $89,640 $88,796 -0.94%
Sport & Recreation $60,551 $65,900 8.83%
Trades & Services $64,273 $65,962 2.63%
Average salary  $82,793 $83,778 1.2%

Industries to watch

While ICT has a strong future, Colhoun believes it is not all doom and gloom for the mining industry.

He doesn’t believe the industry will see quite the intensity of the highs of 2012-13, which he describes as a 1 in 100 year cycle, but the recovery of commodity prices has meant demand for mining skills has picked up strongly over the past 12 months.

“NAB’s monthly business surveys show mining is reporting the best business conditions of any industry sector at the present time,” says Colhoun.

Real Estate & Property advertised salaries are shown to have risen 13.6%, reflecting the strong population growth and housing market activity, although Colhoun says with house prices falling advertised salaries in this area are likely to ease.

Other significant wage growth areas over the past five years, according to the SEEK data, were in Administration & Office Support (13.6%), Insurance & Superannuation (13.3%) and Hospitality & Tourism (12.4%).

Education of a nation

The average advertised salary for the Education & Training industry has risen more than 19% in the past five years – well ahead of the second biggest growth industry, Community services & Development, which increased by 16%.

Tutoring roles saw the largest increases (up 18%) while teacher’s aides and those working with students with special needs were also averaging much higher offers (up 14%).

The vocational sector performed particularly well, with higher average salary figures recorded for both teachers (up 13%) and management roles (up 12%) compared to 2013.

Average salaries offered through SEEK for the university sector have not shown much change in five years, but Dr Gwilym Croucher, from the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education based at Melbourne University, says higher education is continually transforming.

Technology, and a trend for lifetime learning, is leading to the rise of ‘micro-credentialing’, where people can do small, short courses to upskill and help their career progression ambitions.

He says there’s also been a need for new skill sets to provide for different student experiences than in the past – such as IT professionals to support student learning or service providers to look after their health, wealth and safety.

Croucher says the international education market has taken off and Australia has been at the front of the field from the start.

Remarkably, he says, we’re about to move into second place, behind the US, as the country with the most cross-border students.

“Higher education has continued to expand in the last five years and now requires a lot of different skill sets to meet the demands of both domestic and international students, while also meeting the changing requirements for quality.”

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Belinda Parkes

Belinda Parkes is a freelance journalist and sub-editor with more than 20 years’ media experience across newspapers, magazines and digital media. Belinda has had a love affair with words from a young age, having written a song at age five, a...

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