Then and now: Australia's highest paying jobs

Do you know which jobs earn the biggest pay packets? We reveal Australia’s highest paying jobs and compare them to the top average annual salaries five years ago.

The global financial crisis and mining downturn have put the brakes on wage growth over the past decade – so much so that many jobs advertised five years ago were offering higher salaries than what’s on the table now.

However National Australia Bank’s Chief Economist for Markets, Ivan Colhoun, believes wages have bottomed.

He says there are indicators of upward momentum in some sectors and, with employers reporting that it’s getting harder to find suitable labour, it seems wage pressure is beginning to intensify.

Although wages in general are on the weak side, Colhoun says business conditions are strong and there are promising prospects in some sectors for the years ahead.

SEEK’s national salary data highlights those jobs that are attracting the highest salaries, and the industries that are having the biggest impact.

Click the tabs below to compare the highest paying jobs in 2018 versus 2013:  

  • 2013 salaries 
  • 2018 salaries
Role type
2013 salary
1 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining - Exploration & Geoscience $146,596
2 Mining, Resources & Energy Management $142,886
3 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining - Engineering Maintenance $142,769
4 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas - Exploration & Geoscience $139,990
5 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas - Engineering & Maintenance $137,816
6 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas - Drilling $136,271
7 Engineering Management $135,274
8 Mining, Resources & Energy Surveying $134,566
9 Information & Communication Technology Architects $134,547
10 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining - Drill & Blast $132,725
11 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining - Processing $131,762
12 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining - Operations $130,657
13 Engineering Project Management $128,086
14 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas - Production & Refinement $127,510
15 Information & Communication Technology Management $127,411
16 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas - Operations $127,223
17 Engineering Process Engineering $126,792
18 Construction Project Management $126,699
19 Construction Management $126,423
20 Mining, Resources & Energy Health, Safety & Environment $125,777

Source: SEEK Salary Report, July 2012 - June 2013 vs July 2011 - June 2012

2013 versus 2018

Perhaps not surprisingly, management roles currently dominate SEEK’s top 20 highest earners list.

Managers involved in Engineering, Information & Communication Technology (ICT) and Mining, Resources & Energy make up three of the top four most highly paid jobs, only being bumped from the top spot by ICT Architects, who report the highest average salary at $138,000.

Managers of finance, construction, insurance and superannuation and consulting also made the list.

The noticeable difference from five years ago is the absence of many of the mining jobs.

In 2013 they held 13 of the top 20 highest paying jobs – including every job in the top six.

“Mining is a risky occupation, jobs are typically in remote areas and it is still quite highly unionised,” explains Colhoun.

In 2018 only miners in management (number four) and engineering and maintenance (number 13) made the cut.

Lawyers made a strong showing this year with four jobs on the list, the highest earnings ($129,000) going to those in generalist / in-house roles (number five).

What salaries are ready to rise?

Although mining remains the highest paying industry in 2018, according to SEEK’s data, advertised salaries are well below the level of five years ago. In 2013, the average salary on offer in the industry was just under $135,000, now it’s hovering just above $116,000.

But Colhoun believes mining still has a lot of potential.

“Commodity prices have recovered so the demand for drilling and exploration has picked up, and NAB’s monthly business survey shows mining is reporting the best conditions of any industry currently,” he says, “…but I don’t think we’ll see it get back to 2012-13 levels – that was a one in a 100 year cycle.”

Strong population growth has been good for services, with a 19% growth rate in advertised salaries for the education sector and a 16% growth for community services jobs over the past five years

The five highest paying industries in 2013 still pay the highest salaries in 2018, however all of them, except ICT, pay less for the role than they did five years ago.

ICT salaries, by contrast, grew by 7.3%, with the average climbing from $97,700 to $104,800 in five years.

Why is ICT king?

ICT jobs feature in the top 20 six times, and it holds both the number one and three spots.

ICT Architects are the nation’s highest earners, followed by ICT Managers in third place. Those working on digital security, product development, project management and team leaders are also well paid.

Robert Beckley is Regional Director for recruitment company Hays.

He says where once IT was a backroom function, it is now top of the agenda for most organisations – because with new technology comes both opportunity and risk.

“On one hand there is the threat of cyber breaches, and on the other hand there is the opportunity to innovate and gain competitive advantage,” says Beckley.

The risks to reputation, and profits, mean IT professionals at the top of their game are highly valued.

Beckley says ICT Architects – the people who design and plan the technology solutions to meet strategic objectives – are not just technical experts, they also have a strong business understanding and great stakeholder management skills.

They’re in high demand due to the number of organisations undergoing significant digital transformations.

The third most highly paid ICT role is cyber security, which comes in at number 12 on the top earners list. They’re making an average $122,700 a year due to the rocketing demand for their expertise as companies store and share more data and hackers develop more sophisticated attacks.

It’s a competitive sector and the biggest mistakes employers make, says Beckley, is being too slow in their interview processes and not having a strong industry network – you can’t wait for candidates to come to you.

“A good ICT candidate actively on the market will have multiple opportunities and if you’re too slow, they’ll be snapped up before you’ve got around to making your offer,” he says.

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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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