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  • Published: 15 November 2022

Same degree but different outcomes: an analysis of labour market outcomes for native and international PhD students in Australia

  • Massimiliano Tani   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7642-8343 1  

Journal for Labour Market Research volume  56 , Article number:  20 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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This paper used data on career destinations over the period 1999–2015 to study the labour market outcomes of native and foreign PhD graduates staying on in Australia as skilled migrants. Natives with an English-speaking background emerge as benefiting from positive employer ‘discrimination’ (a wage premium unrelated to observed characteristics such as gender, age, and previous work experience). The premium is field-specific and applies to graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In contrast, foreign PhD graduates with a non-English speaking background experience inferior labour market outcomes, especially if they work in the university sector. Against expectations to the contrary, completing the highest degree of education in the host country and staying on in the same sector where one acquired human capital does not appear to eliminate lesser labour market outcomes for the foreign-born.

1 Introduction

Over the past two decades, economic globalisation has led to an unprecedented increase in the number of international students. In 2017, they accounted for about 6% of university enrolments across the OECD, but their share was as high as 47% in Luxembourg and about 20% in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (OECD 2019 a – Figure B6.1). In the same year, international students enrolled in large numbers in several non-OECD countries too, including China (1.1%) and India (0.8%) (OECD 2019b ibid).

This ‘migration for education’ phenomenon is noteworthy (Tani and Piracha 2022 ): on the one side, it has propelled the tertiary sector into becoming a major generator of export revenues. On the other, it has influenced the international transfer of human capital between countries of origin and destination, and the skill composition of migration flows. Foreign students contribute to the rapid increase of tertiary-educated migrants (Freeman 2010 ; Docquier and Rapoport 2012 ), besides adding to patenting activity, entrepreneurship (Hunt and Gauthier-Loiselle 2010 ; Hunt 2011 ; Roach et al. 2019 ), international collaborations (Jonkers and Cruz-Castro 2013 ; Scellato et al. 2015 ; Carillo et al. 2013 ; Freeman et al. 2014 ), and economic activity at large (Ackers 2005 ).

The economic effects of foreign students are the subject of broad analyses of skilled migration (OECD 2001 , 2008 and 2018 ) and higher education (OECD 2019b ; Zhou et al. 2008 ; Crawford and Wang 2016 ). However, little is known about the graduates staying on in the country of education as skilled migrants, and how they fare relative to comparably educated natives. This particular flow of highly trained individuals is worth studying not only for its association with desirable economic outcomes but also for shedding light on fundamental questions about the potential role of host country education in reducing the loss of human capital typically experienced by migrants (Chiswick and Miller 2009 ).

An apparent contradiction characterises the economic outcomes of highly educated migrants. Several studies show that emigrants are positively selected. In other words, they are better motivated (Borjas 1987 and 1991 ; Grogger and Hanson 2011 ) and educated than those left behind (Carrington and Detragiache 1998 and 1999 ; Docquier and Marfouk 2004 ; Docquier et al. 2005 ) and those returning to the country of origin (DaVanzo 1983 ; Gibson and McKenzie 2009 ; Dustmann and Kirchkamp 2002 ). They are also more educated and motivated than the natives of their respective host countries (Docquier et al. 2014 ). However, they are more likely to experience ‘over-education’ (Hartog 2000 ; Groot and van der Brink 2000 ; Leuven and Oosterbeek 2011 ): they earn lower wages and work in jobs requiring less education than what is consistent with their qualifications, especially if they are highly educated (Piracha et al. 2012 ; Tani 2020 ).

Such poor labour market outcomes have been attributed to employers’ possible distaste for foreigners (Becker 2010 ) or their unawareness about the signal value of education completed abroad (Altonji and Pierret 2001 ; Tani 2017 ). While adding a formal recognition of foreign qualifications helps migrants improve their labour market prospects (Friedberg 2000 ), it remains unclear whether graduating and working in the host country puts them at par with natives in terms of wages and job quality: is this the case?

This paper helps to fill this knowledge gap by comparing the labour market outcomes of native and foreign students graduating from doctoral (PhD) programmes. Addressing this question is relevant for understanding the determinants of the returns to the most intensive investment in education, and the main source of labour supply for research-intensive employers in academia, government, and parts of the business sector (Hayter and Parker 2019 ; Garcia-Quevedo et al. 2012 ; Sauermann and Roach 2012 ).

There are several reasons to restrict the analysis to graduates with PhDs only rather than including other tertiary-educated graduates. The main one is that the characteristics of students, study programme, and job opportunities for PhD graduates are less heterogeneous than that experienced at lower levels of education. This may limit the bias arising from unobserved heterogeneity—i.e. the set of factors that influence the outcome of interest but cannot be, or are not, measured. In a PhD programme, students tend to develop specialist skills and knowledge that appeal to a relatively limited range of types of people: namely those with interest, motivation, and predisposition for research and detailed work (Wächter 2004 ; Schneider 2013 ). This differs from the case of lower levels of education, like Masters and Bachelor degrees, where the variety of student types is wider and the skills developed tend to be generic and suitable for an extensive range of occupations (Beertsen 2006 ; Cumming 2010 ). Notwithstanding the self-selection occurring in the choice of doctoral studies, the narrow set of student types and job opportunities lends support to the prior that the determinants of labour market outcomes at PhD level, and any emerging differences between natives and foreigners, are less influenced by unobserved heterogeneity and corresponding estimates less affected by bias.

Other reasons to focus on PhDs is a labour market with effectively full employment (e.g. OECD 2019b —Table B7.5), and a market where the signal value of education is well understood: for instance, an employer gauging the potential productivity of two identical candidates aside from their nationality is unlikely to value differently the PhDs if they are awarded in the same discipline by the same institution. If the employer offered different salaries then other reasons, which could be precisely identified depending on the availability of data, would be at play. This paper contributes to verifying this possibility.

In focusing on PhD graduates this paper contributes to the relatively small literature that links foreign graduates and migration Footnote 1 —notwithstanding the general interest in PhD graduates’ mobility (Auriol 2007 ; Solimano 2008 ; Freeman 2010 ). Existing literature traditionally studies doctoral programmes from an educational standpoint namely, as formative training for subsequent employment (Mangematin and Mangran 1998 ; Mangematin 2000 ; Lissoni 2012 ) in a global labour market (Auriol et al. 2013 ; De Grip et al. 2010 ). PhD graduates’ outcomes are the focus of more recent work, which views the emergence of temporary and casual post-doctoral positions (Stephan and Ma 2005 ) as the result of an over-supply Footnote 2 of PhD students (Cyranoski et al. 2011 ). This stream of research also highlights that more competitive conditions in the academic labour market may have prompted many PhDs to find employment outside the university sector Footnote 3 (Su 2013 ). Overall, foreign-born PhD graduates experience the worst outcomes in terms of job quality and salary.

While situated at the intersection of education, migration, and labour market research this paper studies the returns to a PhD degree using the case of Australia, adding to a limited literature (Harman 2002 ; Neumann et al. 2008 ). Australia is one of the most popular destinations for international PhD students (40% of PhD graduates are foreigners versus 25% across the OECD). Australia also uses migration policy to openly attract applicants with tertiary and higher education, and this raises valid reasons to compare outcomes between natives and foreigners completing identical degrees in the country.

The empirical analysis is based on data sourced from the Graduate Destination Survey (GDS). This is a comprehensive educational and employment survey carried out by each university. The GDS has a set of universal questions, which are commonly asked across universities (e.g. student profile, occupational outcomes), and a set of optional questions, which are chosen by each university and cannot be compared across the sector. The data used cover the universal questions for the period 1999–2015, a time of significant developments in the tertiary sector and the overall economy in Australia (Ranasinghe 2015 ): they include the years of rapid increase in the enrolment of international students (early 2000s), eased by favourable legislative changes that enabled the use of schooling in lieu of local employment to apply for permanent residence (subsequent changes in the next decade restricted this migration pathway). The period also includes the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), which negatively affected hiring decisions and wage growth since 2008.

One distinctive feature of the empirical analysis is the classification of native and foreign students into those with an English-Speaking Background (ESB) and those with a Non-English Speaking Background (NESB), respectively. This distinction captures the multicultural nature of Australia’s population, as identified by answer to what language is mostly spoken at home ( https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/1289.0 ), and the fact that people often identify with and maintain the language and culture of their places of origin even if they are ‘natives’ overall. Footnote 4 The ESB/NESB distinction is common in Australian statistics, but in the context of this paper doing so offers novel insights on the returns to education between various sub-groups of the student population.

As Australia allows dual citizenship, it is not possible to rely on indicators of nationality or country of birth to clearly distinguish natives from foreigners. This problem is overcome by using university fees, where the categories for domestic and international students do not overlap. Combined with information about each student’s cultural background, as recorded by the GDS using the question on language spoken at home, this approach yields a well-defined taxonomy of mutually exclusive categories of PhD graduates in Australia:: (i) native ESB, (ii) native NESB; (iii) foreign ESB, and (iv) foreign NESB.

The GDS unfortunately neither includes indicators of personality or individual preferences, nor schooling performance (e.g. grades, publications during the PhD), duration of the PhD, or whether any prior education was completed in Australia. This potential source of bias is formally tested using the methodology developed by Oster ( 2019 ). This test suggests that the results are robust to omitted variable bias.

The empirical analysis is based on PhD graduates in the age group 25–45 in line with international practice (e.g. OECD 2019 – Table B7.2). The initial focus is on the difference in starting wages between the control (native ESB) and the other three groups (native NESB, foreign ESB and NESB, respectively) using the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition (Jann 2008 ). Regression analysis is then applied to estimate the influence of individual and institutional characteristics on an expanded set of labour market outcomes that includes hours of work, over-education, and the probability of working in a full-time job.

The results reveal that there is no difference in the average starting salary of native and foreign PhD graduates, but this masks substantive differences in the contribution of observed and unobserved components. Native ESB are always paid less than any other sub-group on the basis of the observed characteristics (between 2.2 and 6.3%). This occurs because of a higher share of women and part-time workers in this group. The native ESB’s wage penalty is completely offset when the unobserved component is added up—that is when one takes into account features that are not included in the regressions (see Sect. 4) such as the structure of the labour market, pay rates across industries, and employers’ preferences. These factors can nevertheless result in identical people being paid differently across sectors.

Further analysis reveals that the offsetting influence of unobserved variables, which the literature typically refer to as ‘discrimination’ (e.g. Oaxaca and Ransom 1994 ), varies by field of study: it is prevalent among graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), while there is no effect for ESB native graduates in other fields of study. No wage penalty is detected in the case of Medicine, Dentistry and Health except for the comparison of ESB-NESB natives, where ESB natives enjoy a 7.2% premium entirely due to the unobserved component. This result occurs almost exclusively at the higher end of the wage distribution, suggesting that unobservable characteristics become more relevant determinants of pay once standard requirements have been met. ESB natives do not have such an advantage in average- and low-paying jobs.

The regression analysis also shows that NESB foreign PhDs have the worst labour market outcomes among the four groups of graduates: they work fewer hours, are less likely to work in a full time occupation, and have the highest probability for looking for another job. This sub-group is the most likely to work in the university sector. These results highlight the apparent contradiction between benefiting from international PhD students and being unable or unwilling to offer these graduates alternative career opportunities. While both universities and foreign PhDs may find this arrangement suitable, it is unclear whether the status quo may negatively affect the learning experience of students at a lower level of tertiary education (who are commonly taught or tutored by seasonal PhD graduates). More data are required to provide an answer.

Overall, acquiring education in the host country is far from putting foreigners and natives on equal pay, even when students complete the same, and highest possible, degree of formal education. There are reasons to question whether this situation is sustainable in the long-term without compromising universities’ reputation and their ability to keep attracting high quality international students.

The rest of the paper is organised as follows. Section 2 describes the data. Section 3 discusses the methodology. Section 4 presents the results. Section 5 concludes.

The empirical analysis uses sixteen rounds of the GDS, a national survey of higher education graduates. The GDS was administered by Graduate Careers Australia until 2016, when another organisation began collecting data with a new survey that could not be directly compared with earlier editions. The GDS is offered to all new graduates from Australian universities via email, phone, or in person—typically at time of graduation to optimise time and density of respondents. It is widely used to explore the transition between higher education and the labour market. The GDS’s average response rate is between 50 and 60% of the native graduand population (Guthrie and Johnson 1997 ). Lower rates apply for international students (ibid), who predominantly fill in the GDS in person during their graduation days. Although the GDS is an annual survey, there is a strong correspondence between the data it collects and the administrative data collected by Australia’s Department of Education (DE): the distribution and evolution of the share of foreign PhD graduates over the period by field of study between population (DE) and sample (GDS) is similar (Fig.  1 ), as is also formally verified through regression analysis. Footnote 5 The sorting of native and foreign PhDs into different fields of education also evolves along similar paths (Fig.  2 ).

figure 1

The evolution of foreign PhDs in Australia by field of education: population and administrative data 1999–2015

figure 2

Field of study of native and foreign PhDs in Australia: 1999–2015

The GDS is not immune from drawbacks, as it contains no information on certain demographics that are relevant for labour market studies, like the marital status and the number of children. Academic performance (grades, number of publications), and previous education in Australia or work history are not asked, though the GDS records whether or not graduates worked in the final year of their studies. The possibility of omitted variables bias is tested using the technique developed by Oster ( 2019 ), but the tests suggest that the results are robust to it: the amount of unobserved heterogeneity required to nullify the effect of nationality is 2–3 times higher than the suggested benchmark. Footnote 6 This is highly unlikely.

2.1 Working sample

From the 16 rounds of the GDS (51,959 observations) the working sample is restricted to observations on those working in Australia (35,716 observations) and aged between 25 and 45 (26,402 observations). As age is measured at time of graduation, the restriction to age 25–45 covers students enrolling in the PhD programme between the age 21 (completion of Bachelor Degree) and 40, as used in international studies (OECD, 2019). Further restrictions to observations with complete information on salary, hours of work, and employment characteristics as well as plausible salaries (between 1 and 99% of the raw distribution) reduce the working sample to 19,087 observations, with 16,945 covering native (88.8%) and 2142 foreigner (11.2%) PhD graduates, respectively. Table 1 summarises the trimming carried out.

Table 2 presents the summary statistics by aggregate nationality. The first two columns report the unconditional means and standard deviation (in parenthesis) of natives and foreigners, respectively, while the third column shows whether these are statistically different from zero at the 1% (‘***’), 5% (‘**’), or 10% (‘*’) level of significance on the basis of t-tests of mean differences.

2.2 Selection issues

Not every graduate remains in Australia, and not everyone staying on is employed. As a result there are two important sources of possible selection. The first is unemployment, but the first row of Table 2 indicates that PhD graduates experience low unemployment rates (lower than the national unemployment rate), though these are higher for foreigners. Formally accounting for selection into employment makes no difference to the empirical results, and therefore it is not further discussed.

The second source of selection is emigration (for natives) and return to the country of origin for foreigners. These effects are more marked: 8.8% of native Australian PhDs move abroad to work with a foreign-based employer while 40.9% of foreign PhDs remain in Australia. This source of selection influences the empirical results, as it is unlikely that those who stay and move (or return) are of identical quality. To account for this source of bias, a new variable is included in the form of an index (inverse Mills ratio) capturing the probability of remaining in Australia upon graduation—i.e. the probability of non-selection. This index is estimated from a probability (probit) model linking staying in Australia with information on the country of origin, whether or not the graduate worked in the last year of study, the time spent to complete the PhD, the quality of the university from which they graduate, and time fixed effects. The resulting index tries to capture the quality of the PhD graduate using the insights of Roy’s ( 1951 ) model of self-selection applied to the case of PhD graduates (Heckman and Taber, 2010 ; Borjas et al. 1992 ): namely that the migration decisions of native and foreign graduate reflect economic opportunity (e.g. relative income of the country of birth vs. Australia, labour market status in the final year of study), and individual ability (higher if the PhD is completed within the expected time with no delay, and if graduating from a research-intensive university). The inverse Mills ratio that is generated is added to the explanatory variables to better control for the selection into emigration/return to country of origin.

Unavailable data constrain the analysis to omit a third source of selection: native Australians undertaking PhD studies abroad and returning to Australia to work. This is an acknowledged limitation, as this sub-group of students likely includes some of the country’s most promising researchers (e.g. Rae 1999 ), and likely skews downwards the average ability of the native Australians PhDs surveyed by the GDS. Notwithstanding this bias, its possible influence on the results presented in the paper is unlikely to be noticeable given the (very) small number of native Australians completing a post-graduate research degree abroad (e.g. Nerlich 2015 —Fig 2).

2.3 Summary statistics

The unconditional means reported in Table 2 show that Australian graduates earn a higher annual and hourly salary than foreigners in absolute terms, but this seems related to working more hours, as the hourly pay of native and foreign PhDs is similar. Even though natives and foreigners work predominantly for the public sector, which in Australia includes academia (68.5% and 66.5%, respectively), foreign PhDs are more likely to work in part-time positions (52.8% vs. 34.1%). The difference in hours of work emerges as one of the most distinctive differences between these two groups. This is not due to restrictive working rights as foreign PhD students can work full-time in Australia. Footnote 7

The rest of Table 2 summarises demographic, educational, and labour market outcomes for the subsamples of native and foreign PhD graduates that choose to remain in Australia. They are similar in age, on average in the early 30 s, and in the choice of university, with over half of each group graduating from one of Australia’s Group of Eight (Go8) (58.1% vs. 58.0%, respectively), which gathers the country’s oldest and most research-intensive institutions. Footnote 8

figure 3

Average hourly wage distribution of natives and foreigners: 1999–2015

Natives and foreigners differ in gender composition, field of education, and labour market outcomes. Australian PhDs are predominantly females (52.1% vs. 36.7% among foreign PhDs), and more widespread across fields of study than foreign PhD graduates. While STEM is the most common choice overall, foreign PhD graduates are overwhelmingly enrolled in technical and scientific disciplines (65.6%). The corresponding proportion among Australians is less pronounced (49.9%), and more balanced in the Humanities (34.8%), and Medical or Health studies (15.4%). The distribution of foreign PhDs across other disciplines is similar to natives’, but with lower shares (22.9% and 11.5%, respectively).

The indicator of English-speaking background illustrates the heterogeneity within the main aggregate groups of natives and foreign students. Native ESB students account for 79.7% of native PhD graduates, but the remaining 20.3% includes first and second-generation migrants with a NESB cultural background. In other words, a fifth of native PhDs speak a language other than English at home. This proportion includes second generation migrants, born in Australia, and those who are naturalised. The proportions of ESB and NESB students in the foreign group are reversed: 25.5% are ESB (mostly from New Zealand, UK, US and Canada) while the remaining are NESBs. The relatively large shares of ESB and NESB within native and foreign student aggregations are similar to what has been noted at Bachelor level (Carroll and Tani 2002 ), and illustrate the heterogeneity of backgrounds that characterises students enrolled in Australian universities.

Table 3 focuses on the four subgroups ESB/NESB among native and foreign PhD graduates.

The summary statistics in the table show similar wages per hour despite different underlying wage distributions (Fig.  3 ) and trends during the period by broad field of study (Fig.  4 ).

figure 4

Average odd ratio of part-time and full-time employment among PhD graduates working in Australia: 1999–2015

Foreign NESB graduates are predominantly males, concentrate in STEM and are less likely to work in their final year of study. They also tend to work in part-time positions after their graduation. Native NESB graduates too are characterised by a prevalence of male students, and concentration in STEM degrees and Go8 universities. In contrast, both native and foreign ESB graduates have a more balanced gender ratio, and distribution across fields of education.

3.1 Decomposition at the mean values of the dependent variable

As a preliminary step, the decomposition developed by Oaxaca and Blinder (Jann 2008 ) is applied to wage differences between the various sub-groups. This approach yields the contribution of observed (composition effect) and unobserved (price or wage structure effect) factors and their interaction. If wages are linearly related to the explanatory variables, it is possible to write the wage equations for two sub-groups of N(ative) and I(nternational) PhD graduates as:

where W is the logarithm of the hourly wage for group N (or I) at time t , the vector X includes demographic characteristics (gender, age, age squared, whether speaking English at home as main language, if disabled or from an aboriginal Footnote 9 background), educational variables (whether graduating from a university of the Group of Eight group, the share of foreign students in the same field of study and university, mode of attendance), and labour market variables (lagged average wage and lagged unemployment rate by year and field of education).

Then the difference of the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) estimates of (1) and (2) can be written as:

\({(\overline{X} }_{Nt}-{\overline{X} }_{It}){\beta }_{It}\) is the explained component. It measures the differences that can be attributed to the observed \(\overline{X }\) ’s (endowment effect).

\(({\beta }_{Nt}-{\beta }_{Nt}){\overline{X} }_{It}\) is the unexplained component (coefficients). It measures the difference in the returns of each given characteristic (the \(\beta\) ’s) at their relevant levels; and

\({(\overline{X} }_{Nt}-{\overline{X} }_{It})({\beta }_{Nt}-{\beta }_{It})\) is an interaction term, which reflects differences in endowments and coefficients arising from the simultaneous existence of both (i) and (ii).

This decomposition yields the expected change in sub-group I ’s average wages assuming that people in this sub-group have the same \(\overline{X }\) ’s or \(\beta\) ’s as those in sub-group N . Natives, and within them ESB natives, are chosen as a reference, as they account for the largest share of graduate among all sub-groups. This makes them a natural group for comparing between native and foreigner labour market outcomes. The empirical analysis follows the ‘traditional’ decomposition, which includes an interaction term to ascertain whether the outcome of interest is influenced by the simultaneous presence of different endowments and coefficients. This turns out not to be the case, as the interaction term is no different from zero in most comparisons. Footnote 10

3.2 Decomposition away from the mean of the dependent variable

To extend the analysis to other points of the wage distribution, a quantile regression model is used (Firpo et al. 2009 ; Fortin et al. 2011 ). This applies the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition to the probability of the wage gap being above a quantile of interest, Footnote 11 which can in turn be decomposed as:

where the terms \({(\overline{X} }_{Nt}-{\overline{X} }_{It}){\delta }_{It,\tau }\) and \(({\delta }_{Nt,\tau }-{\delta }_{It,\tau }){\overline{X} }_{Nt}\) capture the observed and unexplained differences between sub-groups at the quantile \(\tau\) , analogously to the decomposition carried out at the mean by model (3). The empirical analysis is implemented at three quantiles: 25th, 50th, and 75th to explore possibly diverging trends for less/more highly paid jobs.

3.3 Regression analysis

The study of wage differences is followed by a regression analysis to understand their determinants in more detail using several other labour market outcomes. These include the hours of work (trimmed to the range between 1 and 70 per week), the probabilities of having a full-time job (35 + hours of work), working in higher education, carrying out a job that does not require PhD qualifications, and looking for another job. For each outcome, an Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression is based on the statistical model:

where y is the labour market outcome of interest for individual i at time t ; X is a vector of individual characteristics as previously discussed, which includes an inverse Mills ratio indicator of self-selection into staying in Australia vs. returning to the country of origin or emigrating; IN is the indicator of nationality and cultural background (native ESB is the reference group). Finally, t is a vector of time fixed effects and \({\eta }_{it}\) is an idiosyncratic error term. As the GDS is an annual survey, model (6) is applied to pooled cross-sectional observations with standard errors clustered at university level to capture institutional commonalities.

4 Results and discussion

4.1 wage decomposition at the mean.

Table 4 shows the baseline decomposition of the difference in the logarithm of the average hourly wage between natives and foreigners.

The top row shows the average difference, while subsequent rows report its Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition into components (model 3). The explained component estimates group differences in endowments while the main contributors are reported in the lower rows of the table. A positive \({\Delta }_{t}\) means that natives enjoy a premium relative to foreigners at the mean value of the relevant dependent variable, while a negative \({\Delta }_{t}\) means that they experience a penalty. The \({\Delta }_{t}\) accounts for selection into emigration or return to the country of origin.

As evident from the first row of the table, there is no statistical difference between the average hourly wage of native and foreign ESB and NESB graduates. This result however masks two opposite forces at work. Observed characteristics suggests that native ESB graduates are paid a lower rate relative to every other group, as indicated by the negative and statistically significant estimate of the explained component. The estimated effect is not small: relative to the average starting hourly wage of just over $32 Footnote 12 a one percentage point increase in the negative contribution of the explained component reduces the hourly wage by about $3. Footnote 13 Added up over the course of a working life, such an hourly penalty is indeed large. Footnote 14 The items under ‘Contribution to E’ in the bottom part of the table identify the sources of this penalty. They are a more balanced gender mix (being a woman has a negative sign) and a tougher labour market in recent periods, especially after the Global Financial Crisis (year dummy indicators are all negative and statistically different from zero). Natives’ penalties would be worse were it not for working more hours.

Against the effect of observed components, native ESB graduates enjoy a premium from unobserved characteristics. This can be thought of as a positive externality or favourable structural feature of the labour market that cancels out the wage penalty from observed variables. This offsetting relationship between observed and unobserved components characterises native ESB not only vis-à-vis their foreign counterparts but also vis-à-vis native NESB graduates. The interaction term is statistically equivalent to zero.

To understand whether these results vary across fields of education, separate regressions are carried out, and the results are reported in Table 5 . The pooled regressions mostly reflect what graduates in STEM experience. This is the only field where the point estimates of explained and unexplained components are always different from zero at a 1% level of statistical significance, and where native ESB graduates experience compensating effects of penalty from observed and premium from unobserved characteristics.

No wage gap arises between natives and foreigners in the Humanities, while in Medicine and Health, where Australia has traditionally experienced labour market shortages until recently, foreigners enjoy a premium.

4.2 Wage decomposition away from the mean

The analysis on a wider wage distribution (Table 6 ) provides some new insights. One is that natives ESB with a PhD in STEM (top portion of the table) are paid less relative to every other graduate sub-group along the wage distribution: the explained component is always negative and statistically different from zero aside from one case—the lowest wage group in the native ESB vs. NESB comparison. This reflects in part that native ESB graduates have a more balanced gender mix, as the gender pay gap disadvantages women and, indirectly, natives. Correspondingly, the unexplained component has the opposite sign but it is statistically different from zero only at the 75th quantile. Native ESB seem to benefit from unobserved determinants relative to every other subgroup when jobs are better paid and competition is likely tougher. This finding is novel, and is consistent with the hypothesis that the PhD labour market is not only influenced by observed determinants where they matter most: at the top of the job scale.

Pay differences are effectively zero in the Humanities and in Medicine and Health, with only a couple of minor exceptions in the native ESB vs. NESB and native vs. foreign ESB comparisons at the 50 th quantile. On average, graduates in these disciplines seem to receive even salary opportunities regardless of their place of origin and cultural background. Wage gaps however present only one dimension of the labour market.

4.3 Regression analysis

To better understand the type and quality of the employment of PhD graduates, model (6) is applied to several outcomes besides hourly wages. This set of estimates is summarised in Table 7 . The first two columns show the results when the hours of work and the probability of working full-time are used as dependent variable, respectively. The next column shows the determinants of the probability of working in higher education, either as lecturer or tutor, followed by the probability of over-education. The last column of Table 7 shows the determinants of the probability of looking for another job, which is interpreted as an indicator of overall dissatisfaction with the current job.

The top panel of Table 7 shows the results of pooled regression across fields of education, while those in the middle and bottom of the table present those obtained from the regressions performed separately on STEM, Humanities, and Medicine and Health. In each case, model (6) is estimated by OLS using native ESB as the reference group.

The regression on pooled data illustrates differences in the types of job that PhDs in the four subgroups carry out after graduation. Every sub-group works fewer hours than native ESB but only foreign NESB have a significantly lower probability of working in a full-time job (− 0.068). This occurs in STEM (− 0.080) and Humanities (− 0.207). The third column shows that foreign PhDs, regardless of their cultural background, are more likely to work in higher education than natives. PhD graduates seem to work in jobs that require a doctoral level of education, as indicated by the lack of statistical significance of the estimates reported in the fourth column of Table 7 . However, as NESB foreign PhDs are more likely to look for another job (last column), they do not seem to work in highly desirable positions within the tertiary sector. Further examinations of annual salary data and hours of work reveal that native ESB PhDs work about 8% more hours than their foreign NESB equivalents when in full-time employment, but 26% more hours when working part-time. In other words, foreign NESB graduates experience a penalty relative to their native equivalents especially when working part-time. In addition, at the lowest end of the earning distribution (up to A$10,000 per annum or about 20% of the average salary of a PhD graduate), where there is higher likelihood of temporary and casual positions, foreign NESB graduates account for more than 30% of the PhD graduate workforce. However, they represent only 13% of the PhD graduate workforce earning between A$10,000 and A$50,000, and 11% of that earning between A$50,000 and A$100,000—salaries overwhelmingly drawn from full-time employment. This evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that foreign PhDs commonly take up temporary and casual/sessional positions—the least secure, and possibly less rewarding, academic jobs—from which they are trying to move out (last column of Table 7 ). This hypothesis, which is somewhat puzzling as the tertiary sector trains those very students and knows well their abilities and strengths from their curriculum, applies especially to PhD graduates in STEM and the Humanities but not to those completing Medicine and Health degrees, for whom the labour market outcomes by nationality are statistically identical.

4.4 Universities as employers

To explore in more detail the labour market outcomes of native and foreign PhDs working in tertiary education vis-à-vis those working in other sectors, separate analyses are carried out. The results are summarised in Table 8 . Relative to native ESB graduates, every other sub-group working in higher education receives lower wages (− 3.2% for native NESB up to − 13.9% for foreign NESB) and is less likely to have a full-time job. These penalties however are far more pronounced for NESB, be they either natives (− 6.6%) or foreigners (− 26.1%). The penalty for foreign ESB is substantial (− 9.6%) though this group has similar likelihood of carrying out a full time job as native ESB graduates.

The wage penalty and lower probability of full-time employment is about halved when PhD graduates work outside the university sector, highlighting industry-specific reasons at the core of these results. In industries other than higher education, PhD graduates have similar probabilities of working full-time, suggesting that nationality and cultural background have less influence in accessing jobs. The final columns of Table 8 indicate that PhD graduates are likely to look for better job opportunities even shortly after completing their studies and entering the labour market, especially, and unsurprisingly given the relatively poor outcomes previously discussed, if they work in higher education. This set of results might reflect foreign PhDs’ inferior language skills, but this hypothesis cannot be investigated because the quality of English language skills is not surveyed in detail in the GDS. However, were this hypothesis empirically supported, universities could offer PhD graduates extra language courses as part of the education and training provided at doctoral level.

5 Conclusions

This paper explores the determinants of wages and other labour market outcomes for native and foreign PhD graduates in Australia over a 15-year period, ending in 2016. While average wages are statistically identical across groups, this outcome masks two opposing effects: ESB natives generally earn less than comparable foreigners on the basis of observed characteristics but this penalty disappears because of the contribution of unobserved factors. This finding emerges especially in STEM and for jobs at the higher end of the hourly pay scale where ESB natives enjoy hourly salary improvements of between 2.2 to 6.3%. This premium is large, particularly when calculated on the course of an entire working life, during which it compounds (e.g. a 5% improvement over the course of 30 years results in a 432% premium in the 30th year).

Besides areas characterised by chronic skills shortages, such as those in Medicine and Health, where foreign and native PhDs achieve relatively similar outcomes, the labour market does not offer similar opportunities to native and foreign graduates notwithstanding that they complete identical PhD programmes from the same universities. Foreign NESB PhDs experience inferior outcomes with respect to salary, hours of work, probability of working in a full-time job, and in sectors other than higher education. This evidence supports the hypothesis that the partial international transferability of human capital is the result of imperfections in the labour market rather than in the qualifications or education completed. Puzzlingly, the same universities in which foreign PhDs complete their education, especially in STEM and the Humanities, contribute to these graduates’ poorer labour market outcomes. While this may reflect poor English language skills, it cannot be analysed with the publicly available data at hand, but hiring universities have that information from their own records and observations of students’ performance. It may be possible that the disadvantage emerging in the analysis in this paper is beneficial to both universities and their foreign PhD casual/sessional or part-time staff. However, it is hard to draw a conclusion without further information on the learning experiences of the students that are taught or tutored by these staff.

Overall, the results highlight that inequality across national and cultural groups begins at the outset of one’s career, even when education is acquired at the highest possible level and with no apparent disadvantage to the natives of the country where one will then work.

Availability of data and materials

The original dataset used for the current study is not publicly available as it belongs to Graduate Careers Australia, but the sample analysed is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request

For example, the effect of a substantive number of agreements among universities to encourage student visits and joint international PhD supervision (cotutelle), which provide training and experience recognised across multiple countries of education (Cañibano et al. 2011 ; Franzoni et al. 2012 ) remains under-researched.

See for example: http://www.phdcentre.eu/nl/publicaties/documents/Ph.D.LabourmarketFinal4112010.pdf (Netherlands); http://www.aqu.cat/doc/doc_18168541_1.pdf (Cataluna); and http://www.economist.com/node/17723223 (US and UK).

The literature expresses mixed reviews of these job market developments. For some authors, the expansion of labour demand beyond academia and research departments is positive, as it can absorb the increased number of PhD graduates (Lee et al. 2010 ; Kyvik and Olsen 2012 ). For other authors, the higher heterogeneity of employers and jobs has also raised the likelihood of mismatch between competences acquired during the PhD training programme and those actually used in the labour market. The mismatch seems to affect a substantial share of recent doctoral graduates, particularly after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007–8 (Mangematin 2000 ; Di Paolo 2014 ).

Of the 29,129 PhD graduates of the untrimmed sample (see Table 1 ) who are Australian citizens or permanent residents in the age group 25–45, only 63.1% speak English at home (ESB) while 36.9% speak a language other than English (NESB). Of the 8,816 PhD graduates of the untrimmed sample who are neither Australian citizens nor permanent residents in the age group 25–45, 29.4% speak English at home (ESB) while the remaining 70.6% speak another language (NESB). Even among those born in Australia, about 5% of PhD graduates are NESB, i.e. they do not speak English at home.

Regressing by Ordinary Least Square the ratio of Foreign/Native PhD graduates on an interaction term between field of study and time to detect possible separate trends yields coefficient that are statistically no different from zero. Such model includes dummy variables for the field of education and time, but no constant term.

Oster’s approach relies on the assumption that observed and unobserved variables are related, from which one can ‘reverse engineer’ the ratio of unobserved versus observed selection (‘ delta’ ), which would turn zero the estimate of the explanatory variable of interest (‘ beta’ ): the delta obtained range from 2.16 to 3.6 versus the benchmark of 1 suggested by Oster. This level of unobserved heterogeneity is highly unlikely, and on this basis it is possible to consider the estimates obtained as ‘robust to omitted variable bias’.

Until 2018 PhD graduates could stay in Australia for up to four years regardless of their labour force status (e.g. https://www.studyinternational.com/news/know-your-rights-can-i-stay-in-australia-after-i-graduate/ ). Legislative changes have reduced the maximum length of stay, but there are several opportunities to seek work after graduation, as completing a degree in Australia is a common pathway to permanent residence (e.g. https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/temporary-graduate-485 ).

As Go8 universities tend to attract students with higher high school scores, this indicator may be viewed as a crude proxy of the underlying student quality: under this interpretation, emigration attracts the ‘best’ Australian PhDs, but only in STEM, while Australia seems to attract the ‘best’ foreign PhDs in each discipline (Fig.  3 ).

Aborigenes are classified as native ESB ( https://theconversation.com/10-ways-aboriginal-australians-made-english-their-own-128219#:~:text=Aboriginal%20English%20is%20spoken%20by,spoken%20by%20many%20Aboriginal%20children .).

See Jann ( 2008 ) for an exhaustive discussion on alternative implementation of the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition.

The wage gap at quantile \(q(\tau )\) can be written as the difference between I and N quantiles by replacing the dependent variable in models (1) and (2) with the ‘recentred influence function’ (RIF) of the wages \({W}_{It}\) and \({W}_{Nt}\) for the quantile of interest. This is defined as:

where the expression \(\frac{I\left({W}_{t}\ge q\right)-(1-\tau )}{{f}_{W}(q\left(\tau \right))}\) is the influence function. The resulting RIF functions for N and I are:

respectively. The quantile wage gap is obtained as the difference in conditional expected value of the RIF between the two groups.

This is obtained from e^3.39 (from Table 3 , second row) = $32 (approximately).

From Eq. ( 3 ), a 1% increase in \({(\overline{X} }_{Nt}-{\overline{X} }_{It})\) reduces \({\Delta }_{t}\) by 0.00045 (i.e. − .045, in row 3 column 1 of Table 4 , multiplied by the 1% increase), which is .00045/.004 = .11 (approximately), or $3 (i.e. $32 x .11), relative to the value of \({\Delta }_{t}\) (.004 from Table 4 , row 1 column 1).

Assuming no inflation for simplicity, a 3$ hourly difference in an 8-h/day (5 working day/week, 45 working weeks/year and a 30 year career) is worth about $162,000 (= $3 × 8 × 5 × 45 × 30) or almost 3 years of work given an average annual salary of $60,000—a large effect.

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The author is grateful to Graduate Careers Australia for making it possible to access the data on which the analysis is carried out, and to seminar participants at the University of New South Wales for feedback.

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Tani, M. Same degree but different outcomes: an analysis of labour market outcomes for native and international PhD students in Australia. J Labour Market Res 56 , 20 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12651-022-00324-5

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Fewer Australian doctoral graduates finding employment after PhD

But employment rates for bachelor’s graduates ‘stabilise’ despite pandemic.

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Short-term employment rates for Australian bachelor’s degree graduates have “stabilised somewhat” despite the pandemic, but work prospects for people with new master’s and doctoral qualifications have continued to decline.

Fewer than 78 per cent of Australians with postgraduate research degrees had full-time jobs within half a year of qualifying between November 2020 and May 2021, according to a new report. This compared with short-term employment rates of over 80 per cent in 2020, 81 per cent in 2019 and 82 per cent in 2018.

The Social Research Centre said short-term employment rates for PhD graduates had hit their lowest level since 2015. “This could reflect a decrease in current employment opportunities in the higher education sector, which is one of the highest employment sectors for this cohort,” it said.

While university employment may be in the doldrums, opportunities in the broader economy are rebounding, according to the 2021  Graduate Outcomes Survey .

Released on 5 October, it charts university students’ job and pay experiences between four and six months after their graduation. Results from a companion longitudinal report, which traces graduate outcomes after three years, were  published in late September .

The new report summarises almost 130,000 graduates’ responses to surveys conducted in November, February and May. In November 2020, full-time employment among bachelor’s graduates had crashed below 61 per cent, some 7 percentage points lower than the previous November.

But by May, the rate had recovered to 72 per cent, less than 1 percentage point below the equivalent figure from 2019.

Lisa Bolton, the SRC’s director of research and strategy for the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching higher education performance data, said the results reflected pandemic-induced “turbulence” in the graduate labour market.

She said a crash in employment rates early in the pandemic had been clearly demonstrated in the November survey, with earlier impacts probably masked by the JobKeeper wage subsidy programme and the buoyant pre-Covid professional job market. “But in line with the general labour market trends reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we can now see they have been recovering.”

Universities Australia said the survey results demonstrated the value of higher education, notwithstanding the pandemic’s impacts. “A degree continues to give students the edge in an increasingly competitive employment market,” said chief executive Catriona Jackson.

“As vaccination rates improve…and more states begin to open up, it is highly likely the premium for graduates will grow further.”

Education minister Alan Tudge said the results were good news. “Despite the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, students are getting on with their lives, graduating and moving quickly into full-time work,” he said.

Mr Tudge said the results reflected the rationale underpinning last year’s Job-ready Graduates reforms, which reduced fees in national priority areas thought to provide the best job prospects.

The report shows that employment rates from bachelor’s degrees in science and maths, favourably regarded under the JRG reforms, rose 2 percentage points to about 61 per cent. They leapfrogged the job outcomes from out-of-favour humanities, culture and social science courses, which fell 3 percentage points to 58 per cent.

But both areas lagged well behind the disfavoured areas of business and management, in which 73 per cent of graduates had full-time work within six months.

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Career paths for PhD students

In response to recent public commentary regarding the lack of secure science jobs for PhD graduates, Academy President Andrew Holmes AM PresAA FRS FTSE and Secretary Science Policy Les Field AM FAA published an article in The Conversation: There’s work (and life) outside of universities for PhD graduates .

They make the point that STEM PhD graduates on average have lower unemployment rates and higher salaries than almost every other category of university graduates, and that while only 2% of PhD graduates could realistically expect to reach professorial levels and enjoy the privilege of an uninterrupted academic career, the modern PhD is an excellent preparation for jobs in a broad range of industries.

They also acknowledge that the challenges involved in an academic career—particularly for early and mid-career researchers, and those with family or caring responsibilities—makes it an extremely difficult path for many. There is an urgent need to invest in programs that provide a more secure pipeline of scientists and researchers for Australia, while also better preparing PhD students for careers outside of academia.

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Doctoral graduate in gown and graduation tam, looking at phone with friend

Do you get paid to do a PhD?

Study tips Published 17 Jun, 2022  ·  4-minute read

A PhD is a time-consuming gig. Planning, research and writing can easily fill the hours of your typical 9-5 job. But do PhD students get paid?

Yes and no.

Yes, you can secure a scholarship that provides a living stipend, which means you’ll receive a fortnightly allowance. No, it isn’t typically as much as you could expect from an entry-level, full-time salary straight out of your undergrad studies – but for many people, it is tax free. You can also supplement the living stipend with a top-up scholarship if you’re eligible.

There are a variety of ways to make a PhD work for you financially. Scholarships are the key component to this and can cover both tuition and living costs.

Let’s explore how you can secure a scholarship to help with day-to-day living expenses such as food, accommodation and bills while you complete your PhD.

How can you get paid to do a PhD?

There are 2 key types of scholarships you need to consider when undertaking your PhD:

  • living stipend
  • tuition scholarship

At UQ, the main scholarship program is called Graduate School Scholarships (UQGSS) – it covers the cost of your PhD tuition fees and provides a living stipend to cover the cost of living expenses while you carry out your PhD.

Another major program of scholarships at UQ are earmarked scholarships, which include both a living stipend and a tuition scholarship. Whether you’re eligible for this type of scholarship depends on the type of PhD you undertake – find out more about earmarked scholarships .

Living stipend

The UQGSS living stipend and tuition scholarship will help you cover cost-of-living expenses while you carry out your PhD. This scholarship:

  • is open to both domestic and international postgraduate research students
  • is inclusive of all study areas
  • covers a 3.5-year period , with the possibility of an extension
  • is only available to full-time students (with the exception of part-time students with special circumstances )
  • provides  $35,000 a year (tax free) living stipend, paid in fortnightly instalments
  • covers tuition fees.

However, while the UQGSS is the most widely used scholarship at UQ for PhD students, there are many types of living stipend scholarships – each with its own terms and conditions.

Search all living stipend scholarships for PhD students

At UQ, you will be asked if you would like to be considered for a living stipend scholarship when you apply for your PhD. UQ scholarships are awarded based on:

  • academic performance
  • evidence of research capability
  • the quality of your research project
  • the quality of your proposed research environment and advisory team.

Top-up scholarship

At UQ, a ‘top-up scholarship’ can provide you with additional funds during your PhD, on top of your living stipend scholarship. There are a variety of top-up scholarships you can apply for through UQ, many of which are focused on specific study areas (and even specific PhD topics ) or targeted at particular groups of people (e.g. international students or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students). Some of these offer travel and/or accommodation allowances on top of the funds provided for general living expenses during studies – a particularly useful addition for PhD students who wish to attend industry conferences or workshops to further their professional development.

Top-up scholarships can:

  • only be used in conjunction with a living stipend (as long as they don’t exceed 75% of the stipend amount)
  • offer an additional $5,000 – approximately $21,000 a year on top of your living stipend.

Browse postgraduate research top-up scholarships  

Top-up scholarships can be very competitive to secure, so it's essential to have a backup financial plan should you apply and not be accepted.

How much funding do you receive for a PhD?

Let’s look at a few of UQ’s top-up scholarships in conjunction with the standard Research Training Program living stipend amount, to see just how much you could be getting paid to do your PhD.

Top-up scholarship Scholarship value per annum* + Standard living stipend ($35,000) per annum
Centre for Health System Reform and Integration PhD Top-Up Scholarship $10,000 $45,000
PhD Economics Top-Up Scholarship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student $14,000 $49,000

CRC TiME Top-Up Scholarship

$10,000 $45,000

*All values are approximate and based on 2024 scholarships. Information is subject to change. See the scholarships website for the most accurate and up-to-date figures. 

Is it enough?

When approaching a PhD, it’s important to consider your financial situation realistically. Asking ‘do you get paid for a PhD?’ doesn’t quite cover all the logistics. Here are a few more questions to help you assess the situation:

  • Can I live on $35,000 a year, or approximately $673 a week? 
  • Do I have the time to supplement my living stipend with casual or part-time work ? Will this extra commitment impact my studies?
  • Will undertaking casual or part-time work breach the conditions of my scholarship?
  • Am I eligible for any scholarships (top-up or other bursaries) beyond the living stipend?
  • Is it worth applying to existing research projects, undertaking research in particular study areas or with certain supporting organisations, so that I may have a better chance of securing an available scholarship? Do these PhD projects/topics align with my interests enough to study for 3-4 years?
  • Am I eligible for a tuition scholarship to cover tuition costs ?
  • What’s more important to me – completing my PhD in 3-4 years full time and budgeting, or completing my PhD in 6-8 years part time while living comfortably?

Don’t forget that you don’t have to make this decision on your own. If you need help finding the right postgraduate research scholarship for you, or would like some advice, you can contact the friendly team at UQ’s Graduate School .

Want to know more about the ins and outs of your journey towards a PhD? Explore our complete guide on how to get a PhD .

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What Do Australian Economics PhDs Do? The UWA Experience

  • UWA Business School
  • School of Population and Global Health

Research output : Working paper › Discussion paper

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameEconomics Discussion Papers

This output contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Access to Document

  • DP17.16_ClementsandSi.pdf Final published version, 485 KB


  • Unemployment Rate Social Sciences 100%

T1 - What Do Australian Economics PhDs Do? The UWA Experience

AU - Clements, Kenneth

AU - Si, Jiawei

N2 - We use a survey of recent economics PhD graduates from The University of Western Australia to report how long the degree took, what they publish from theses, what they do subsequently to graduation and how they evaluate their substantial investment in the PhD. The average student takes four years to complete, two publications emerge from the average thesis, more than half the graduates go into academic positions, and the unemployment rate is zero.

AB - We use a survey of recent economics PhD graduates from The University of Western Australia to report how long the degree took, what they publish from theses, what they do subsequently to graduation and how they evaluate their substantial investment in the PhD. The average student takes four years to complete, two publications emerge from the average thesis, more than half the graduates go into academic positions, and the unemployment rate is zero.

M3 - Discussion paper

T3 - Economics Discussion Papers

BT - What Do Australian Economics PhDs Do? The UWA Experience

PB - UWA Business School

Australian Migration Agents and Immigration Lawyers Melbourne | VisaEnvoy

Australian Permanent Residency Pathways for PhD Graduates

phd unemployment australia

PhD Graduates are highly skilled in their fields and Australian States and Territories value the skilled employment prospects. The following pathways to permanent residency are available to PhD graduates.

Queensland also offers a Graduate stream for subclass 190 and subclass 491. PhD graduates have the option of applying for either the 190 visa or the 491 visa. Usually, all other tertiary education levels can only apply to subclass 491. The criteria applicable to PhD graduates are:

  • Must have graduated from a Queensland university
  • Must obtain 65 points or higher in the points-test
  • Occupation must be on the Medium to Long Term Skills Shortage List, Short Term Skilled Occupations List or the Regional Occupations List (491 only) in accordance with migration policy LIN 19/051
  • Must have completed 100% of course in QLD and has received a decision on a thesis or graduated in last 2 years
  • No employment offer is required
  • 491 Visa Criteria for Queensland
  • State Requirements for 190 Visa
  • Queensland Skilled Occupations List
  • Visa Options to Migrate to Queensland

Previously, Victoria had a PhD pathway under the Skilled Migration Program for PhD graduates. However, it no longer forms part of Victoria’s Skilled Migration Program. Therefore, PhD graduates are assessed alongside all other applications for subclass 190 and 491.

Subclass 190

To apply for subclass 190 visa, the following criteria apply:

  • Applicant’s Registration of Interest application must be selected
  • PhD Graduate must live and work in Victoria
  • Medical Research
  • Life Sciences
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • New energy, emissions reduction and circular economy
  • Creative industries
  • *Applicants using their STEMM skills in a business precinct are highly regarded i.e. Parkville, Footscray or Docklands
  • Must be under 45 years of age
  • Applicant must demonstrate competent English
  • Must have had a valid skills assessment
  • Must obtain a minimum of 65 points on the points-test – see our Calculator here

Victoria is currently selecting occupations for subclass 190 with the following skill level: ANZSCO skill levels 1 and 2 and STEMM skills or qualifications

Subclass 491

To apply for subclass 491, the following criteria apply:

  • Applicant’s Registration of Interest application selected
  • PhD Graduate must live and work in regional Vic
  • New energy, emissions reduction, and circular economy

Victoria is currently selecting occupations for subclass 491 with the following skill level: ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2 and 3 and STEMM skills or qualifications.

Although Victoria does not offer a direct PhD Graduate stream, the State offers further advice regarding an application. PhD Graduates must meet the eligibility requirements above to be selected and this includes living and working in Victoria. It is also stated that if you are receiving a scholarship or undertaking a professional placement as part of your qualification, this cannot be considered as employment.

  • State Requirements for 491 Visa
  • Victoria Skilled Visa Nomination Program 2021-2022 (190 and 491 Visa)
  • Victorian Occupations List

Tasmania offer a Graduate Stream as part of their Skilled Migration Program for subclass 190 and subclass 491 visas. The following criteria apply:

  • Must have completed and graduated from a CRICOS tertiary institution
  • Must have studied full time and on-site in Tasmania
  • PhD Graduate must live in the state for at least 2 years during study prior to submitting their application
  • Must demonstrate a genuine ongoing commitment to remain in Tasmania
  • If you are not currently in skilled employment, you must provide a career plan that explains how your studies have increased your ability to find skilled work in Tasmania
  • Must have completed a minimum of one academic year at a CRICOS tertiary institution (i.e. 40 academic weeks)
  • Must have completed full-time study on campus – does not include online study unless this was mandated by COVID-19 lockdowns
  • PhD Graduate’s study load must have been at least 75% to 100% each semester
  • Employment is not a requirement for the subclass 491 however it is taken into consideration in the assessment
  • Tasmania 190 Visa Requirements
  • Tasmania 491 Visa Requirements
  • Tasmania Skilled Migration Nomination Requirements
  • Tasmanian Skilled Occupations List

South Australia

South Australia offers the International Graduate of South Australia Stream for international students to apply for subclass 190 and subclass 491. To apply under the International Graduate of South Australia Stream, PhD graduates must meet the following requirements:

  • Must have completed a CRISCOS registered course with a minimum duration of 46 weeks
  • Minimum 50% of your qualification must have been completed in South Australia
  • Must have resided in South Australia for at least 1 year during your study
  • Must have continuously resided in South Australia after course completion
  • Must be working at least 20 hours per week or equivalent in your nominated or closely related occupation in SA
  • Must meet the Department of Home Affairs requirements for the applicable visa type

Visa-Specific Requirements

To apply for subclass 190, PhD graduates must meet the following requirements:

  • Under age of 45
  • Valid skills assessment
  • Occupation on South Australia’s Skilled Occupation List
  • Must meet work experience requirements for your occupation
  • Minimum English language for your occupation
  • Minimum points requirement listed for your occupation

It is important to note that research work undertaken as part of your PhD will not be accepted as skilled work experience.

To apply for subclass 491, PhD graduates must meet the following requirements:

  • South Australia Skilled Migration Program 2021-2022

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory do not offer a specific program for PhD Graduates. However, their skilled migration program for subclass 190 and subclass 491 remain open to PhD Graduate applicants. To apply the following criteria, apply:

  • Must have a valid skills assessment
  • Must demonstrate competent English level – i.e. IELTS minimum 6 for each component or equivalent
  • PhD Graduates must commit to living and working in the NT within their nominated skilled occupation for at least 3 years upon visa grant
  • PhD Graduate must have their occupation on the Skilled Occupation list. Please note there is a Northern Territory Occupations List. However, this list details occupations that are in high demand in the Northern Territory.
  • Demonstrate good prospects of employment i.e. offer of employment, statement of skills
  • Must demonstrate financial capacity – provide a list of all financial assets and meet minimum value of net assets requirements in the table below. Please note this is only an offshore applicant requirement.
Individual applicant AU$35 000
Applicant and spouse AU$50 000
Applicant and spouse plus one child AU$60 000
Applicant and spouse plus two children AU$65 000

phd unemployment australia

  • Northern Territory 190 Visa Requirements
  • Northern Territory Migration English Requirements

New South Wales

New South Wales do not offer a specific PhD Graduate stream for subclass 190 within their skilled migration program. However, PhD Graduates apply for subclass 190 alongside all other applicants. For subclass 491, New South Wales offers a Study Pathway for PhD Graduates.

To apply for visa subclass 190, PhD Graduates must meet the following criteria:

  • Eligible for the 190
  • Submitted an expression of interest
  • Skills assessment
  • Currently residing in NSW AND
  • Genuinely and continuously resided in NSW for the past three months or
  • Gainfully employed in SNW for long-term in nominated occupation for minimum 20 hours per week
  • Continuously resided offshore for past three months
  • Valid skills assessment for the ANZSCO unit group that accepts offshore applications
  • Minimum three years’ work experience

To apply for Stream 2 – Study pathway for subclass 491, PhD Graduates must meet the following criteria:

  • PhD Graduates must have a valid skills assessment
  • They are eligible to claim points for ‘study in regional Australia’ due to study in a regional area of NSW
  • Their qualification is assessed as closely related to their nominated occupation

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory offers a Doctorate Streamlined Nomination program as part of their skilled migration program. To apply for the Doctorate Streamlined Nomination program, PhD Graduates must meet the following criteria:

  • PhD Graduates may nominate an occupation on the Australian Government’s Skilled Occupation List
  • PhD Graduates must have lived in Canberra for at least 12 months at the time of their application
  • PhD Graduates must have completed a professional research or doctoral degree at an ACT university

Significant Economic Benefit

If PhD Graduates do not meet the above eligibility criteria, the ACT Government have indicated that they may invite PhD candidates to apply if their employment is of significant economic benefit to the ACT. This cannot be requested or applied for.

Please note if you live in another state or territory or overseas, you may be eligible to apply for the ACT doctorate streamlined nomination program if you were awarded a professional or research doctoral degree from an ACT university within the last 2 years

  • ACT Skilled Migration Nomination Requirements (190 and 491 Visa)
  • ACT Critical Skills List

Western Australia

Western Australia offers a graduate stream for subclass 190 and subclass 491. The WA Graduate Stream requires:

  • International students must have completed a minimum of two years study at a WA university
  • Applicant to have proficient English
  • Applicant to have been offered full time employment and provide evidence of an employment contract
  • Occupation to be on Western Australia’s Graduate Occupation List (GOL)
  • If you are not yet living in WA, you must prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself

International students usually can only apply for some occupations on the GOL. However, international students with masters or PhD-level qualifications have all occupations available on the GOL. See below the WA Graduate Occupation List to determine whether your occupation is listed.

  • Western Australia 190 Visa Requirements
  • State requirements for 491 visa
  • English Language Requirements for Western Australian State Nomination 
  • Western Australian Skilled Migration Occupation List

Graduate Occupation List

*190 visa **491 visa
221111 Accountant (General) Y Y Available
233911 Aeronautical Engineer Y Y Available
​​231111 ​Aeroplane Pilot Y​ Available
234111 Agricultural Consultant Y Y Available
233912 Agricultural Engineer Y Y Available
234112 Agricultural Scientist Y Y Available
311111 Agricultural Technician Y Available
311211 Anaesthetic Technician Y Y Available
​232111 ​Architect ​Y Y​ Available​
252711 Audiologist Y Y Available
351111 Baker Y Y Available
271111 Barrister Y Y Available
121312 Beef Cattle Farmer Y Available
233913 Biomedical Engineer Y Y Available
234514 Biotechnologist Y Y Available
​312113 Building Inspector​ ​Y Y ​Available
141111 Café or Restaurant Manager Y Y Available
351311 Chef Y Y Available
233111 Chemical Engineer Y Y Available
234211 Chemist Y Y Available
233211 Civil Engineer Y Y Available
312211 Civil Engineering Draftsperson Y Y Available
312212 Civil Engineering Technician Y Y Available
272311 Clinical Psychologist Y Y Available
222111 Commodities Trader Y Y Available
411711 Community Worker Y Y Available
263111 Computer Network and Systems Engineer Y Y Available
149311 Conference and Event Organiser Y Y Available
133111 Construction Project Manager Y Y Available
121313 Dairy Cattle Farmer Y Available
252311 Dental Specialist Y Y Available
261312 Developer Programmer Y Y Available
411712 Disabilities Service Officer Y Y Available
334113 Drainer Y Y Available
272112 Drug and Alcohol Counsellor Y Y Available
241111 Early Childhood (Pre-Primary School) Teacher Y Y Available
272312 Educational Psychologist Y Y Available
233311 Electrical Engineer Y Y Available
312311 Electrical Engineering Draftsperson Y Y Available
312312 Electrical Engineering Technician Y Y Available
342315 Electronic Instrument Trades Worker (Special Class) Y Y Available
233411 Electronics Engineer Y Y Available
441211 Emergency Service Worker Y Available
133211 Engineering Manager Y Y Available
233915 Environmental Engineer Y Y Available
251311 Environmental Health Officer Y Available
139912 Environmental Manager Y Y Available
322113 Farrier Y Y Available
222112 Finance Broker Y Y Available
222199 Financial Brokers nec Y Y Available
222299 Financial Dealers nec Y Y Available
222311 Financial Investment Adviser Y Y Available
222312 Financial Investment Manager Y Y Available
132211 Finance Manager Y Y Available
222211 Financial Market Dealer Y Y Available
231113 Flying Instructor Y Available
451399 Funeral Workers nec Y Available
234411 Geologist Y Y Available
234412 Geophysicist Y Y Available
233212 Geotechnical Engineer Y Y Available
121214 Grain, Oilseed or Pasture Grower (Aus)/Field Crop Grower (NZ) Y Available
231114 Helicopter Pilot Y Available
251511 Hospital Pharmacist Y Y Y Available
361112 Horse Trainer Y Y Available
141311 Hotel or Motel Manager Y Y Available
132311 Human Resource Manager Y Y Available
234413 Hydrogeologist Y Y Available
135112 ICT Project Manager Y Y Available
262112 ICT Security Specialist Y Y Available
233511 Industrial Engineer Y Y Available
251512 Industrial Pharmacist Y Y Available
222113 Insurance Broker Y Y Available
​272412 ​Interpreter Y​ ​Y ​Available
312911 Maintenance Planner Y Available
​221112 Management Accountant​ ​Y Y​ Available
233112 Materials Engineer Y Y Available
311312 Meat Inspector Y Y Available
233512 Mechanical Engineer Y Y Available
134211 Medical Administrator Y Available
234611 Medical Laboratory Scientist Y Y Available
251212 Medical Radiation Therapist Y Y Available
311299 Medical Technicians nec Y Y Available
234912 Metallurgist Y Y Available
312913 Mine Deputy Y Y Available
233611 Mining Engineer (excluding petroleum) Y Y Available
121411 Mixed Crop and Livestock Farmer Y Available
121216 Mixed Crop Farmer Y Available
121317 Mixed Livestock Farmer Y Available
233916 Naval Architect Y Y Available
263112 Network Administrator Y Y Available
263113 Network Analyst Y Y Available
251213 Nuclear Medicine Technologist Y Y Available
251312 Occupational Health and Safety Advisor Y Y Available
311214 Operating Theatre Technician Y Available
251411 Optometrist Y Y Available
251412 Orthoptist Y Y Available
251912 Orthotist or Prosthetist Y Y Available
252112 Osteopath Y Y Available
233612 Petroleum Engineer Y Y Available
311215 Pharmacy Technician Y Y Available
252611 Podiatrist Y Y Available
241213 Primary School Teacher Y Y Available
233513 Production or Plant Engineer Y Y Available
​133112 ​Project Builder Y​ ​Available
272399 Psychologists nec Y Y Available
233213 Quantity Surveyor Y Y Available
272114 Rehabilitation Counsellor Y Y Available
132511 Research and Development Manager Y Y Available
253112 Resident Medical Officer Y Y Available
411715 Residential Care Officer Y Y Available
​251513 Retail Pharmacist​ ​Y Y​ ​Available
134311 School Principal Y Y Available
241411 Secondary School Teacher Y Y Available
121322 Sheep Farmer Y Available
231213 Ship’s Master Y Available
272511 Social Worker Y Y Available
261313 Software Engineer Y Y Available
271311 Solicitor Y Y Available
241511 Special Needs Teacher Y Y Available
222213 Stockbroking Dealer Y Y Available
233214 Structural Engineer Y Y Available
133611 Supply and Distribution Manager Y Y Available
232212 Surveyor Y Y Available
​221113 ​Taxation Accountant Y​ Y​ Available
241512 Teacher of the Hearing Impaired Y Y Available
241513 Teacher of the Sight Impaired Y Y Available
263311 Telecommunications Engineer Y Y Available
342413 Telecommunications Linesworker Y Y Available
263312 Telecommunications Network Engineer Y Y Available
​272413 ​Translator ​Y ​Available
233215 Transport Engineer Y Y Available
232611 Urban and Regional Planner Y Y Available
234711 Veterinarian Y Y Available
361311 Veterinary Nurse  Y Y Available
242211 Vocational Education Teacher Y Available
272613 Welfare Worker Y Y Available
411716 Youth Worker Y Y Available

Other Visa Types

PhD Graduates can also extend their stay in Australia through other visa types including:

  • This visa lets invited workers with skills we need, to live and work permanently anywhere in Australia.
  • This visa enables employers to address labour shortages by bringing in skilled workers where employers can’t source an appropriately skilled Australian worker.
  • This visa lets skilled workers, who are nominated by an employer, live and work in Australia permanently.
  • This visa lets you observe or take part in a research project at a research or tertiary institution in Australia. You and your family who apply for the visa with you can stay here for up to 2 years.
  • The Global Talent Visa Program is a streamlined visa pathway. It is for highly skilled professionals to work and live permanently in Australia.

Select a state below to see it’s 190 visa requirements:

Australia Placeholder

State and territory requirements

Each state and territory has its own list of occupations, requirements and processes you must follow.

More information about the requirements and processes on  how Australian states or territories nominate applicants  is available.

Australia visa options

  • I want to IMMIGRATE
  • I want to STUDY
  • I want to INVEST
  • I want to apply for CITIZENSHIP
  • I want to VISIT (TOURIST)
  • I want to appeal a VISA REFUSAL
  • Partner Visa Melbourne
  • 485 Graduate Visa
  • Global Talent Visa (GTI)

Employer Sponsored

  • Employing Overseas Workers
  • Standard Business Sponsorship
  • Accredited Sponsorship
  • Overseas Business Sponsorship
  • 186 ENS visa
  • 494 Employer Sponsored Regional
  • 482 TSS visa

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How to get employed with a PhD

James davis.

It’s a problem years in the making. Students are graduating from PhD programs at an extraordinary pace compared to just a few decades ago, with academic positions growing at a comparative crawl. In 2014 alone, there were 8,000 PhD graduates according to a departmental document. “There are not enough academic jobs vacant in Australia each year to employ all our PhD graduates,” observed senior lecturer Gwilym Croucher from the University of Melbourne.

These stats and assertions have been felt across the country, with first-hand accounts being heard all the time; the guardian recently featured a doctorate holder forced to work as a waitress despite all her qualifications. She cited complaints of ‘being overqualified’ among others as reasons for being rejected for employment, bitter about her choice to pursue postgraduate research. Fortunately, there are ways to defy the odds both during and after completion of a PhD.

Do a PhD by publication

This latest method of undergoing a PhD allows students to publish a series of six or seven works in various journals before compiling them into one large, interconnected work later. This is known as the PhD by publication, which you can learn about in detail here. The advantages of this over a traditional PhD thesis are two-fold.

  • Students gain experience of what it’s like to publish work. If you aspire for a career in research and academia, getting published is the single most important thing. After all, what good is completing research and writing rigorous academic documents if nobody ever reads them?
  • It impresses future employers. Unlike a traditional PhD, students from these programs gain a full body of published, peer reviewed work at the end. This tells universities and research institutes that you not only have the initiative to get published, but the knowledge of how to function in the industry. You come out of your degree knowing how to perform in the job you’re aspiring for.

It can be slightly more arduous having to submit your works for review all throughout your program, but it’s certainly worthwhile.

Work in the private sector outside academia

The viability of this depends upon discipline, but all PhDs require skills that any employer would consider valuable. Academic positions might be shrinking, but working for businesses around the world is valuable even if you never aspired to it. If your end goal is to one day enter academia, a prior career in the private sector show your mettle via the practical application of your knowledge. You show you’ve committed to the company’s schedule and culture, which automatically conveys the fact that you’re organised and able to work diligently to any future employers or universities afterwards.

A May 2018 article in the Financial Review argued exactly in favour of this . “We need to have our students enter PhDs with an aspiration to work in the private sector,” author Geoff Prince stressed. “Our private sector under-utilises PhDs compared to Australia’s competitors.”

Carefully tailor your resume

This piece of advice can seem generic, as it’s often used as a ubiquitous catch-all tip for employment. In this context however, it’s particularly relevant because many PhD graduates are entering the workforce without any experience. So what does this actually mean then? It means:

  • Marketing the skills you’ve learned throughout your PhD first and foremost. Many employers if not all are looking for an explicit skill set. Nothing says “I can perform in this job” quite like explicitly listing all the job requirements and why you’re perfect in all of them. List all the things a PhD requires to succeed if you’re not sure what I mean. Unending persistence, patience, research and discipline are likely among them. These are things you’re likely to see every employer want, so show off why you’ve got them all in abundance.
  • Drawing confidence from the sheer determination it took to gain those skills. “I’ve undergone the highest level of academic rigour possible,” you can write in your cover letter. “I would be an exceptional asset to your company because I have nothing less than world-class problem solving, analytical and research skills.” Your potential employer may not understand your field of study, nor might they understand what it took. The one thing they all understand when they see it is confidence. Show them that same determination and drive you poured into your PhD.

Another classic, I know. What they say about networking is all true though. Going to public industry events, asking for introductions and learning who’s who in your field of interest are keys to breaking into a job, especially in the private sector. Start by seeing if your old supervisor or colleagues know someone who knows someone. This way, they can put a good word in for you. Send out emails and offer to buy people a coffee. At worst, you meet someone interesting and learn a thing or two. At best, you find your first job. Definitely worth a shot.

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The Ultimate Guide to Studying in Australia in 2024

Browse all phd programmes in australia.

  • Feb-Feb Academic Year
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  • 458,000 Int. Students
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Why study in Australia

For many, Australia means kangaroos in the outback, or the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge at New Year. But when you look beyond those, you’ll discover why so many international students choose to study in Australia, and it often ranks in the top 10 best countries to study abroad .  

If you're looking to study at a university in Australia , you will find numerous study opportunities, combining excellent education with beautiful landscapes and vibrant cities. It also boasts world-class universities, a diverse and welcoming population, and one of the world’s most generous grants and bursaries. And it’s all backed by a national culture that welcomes visitors so much that they often decide to stay. 

Why choose Australia for study? Here are a few reasons: 

  • Generous funding for international students. Australia is one of the world’s most generous nations when it comes to education, offering a range of bursaries and grants for students. 
  • World-class universities. Australian universities regularly feature in the top 100 of world rankings, but with a rigorous education system, you can be sure of a top-quality education wherever you study in Australia. 
  • The stunning natural landscape. Australia is renowned for its diverse beauty, from gorgeous beaches and reefs to breathtaking desert plains and mountains. The Australian landscape and wildlife are like nowhere else on earth. 
  • A welcoming nation. Australia has been welcoming people for hundreds of years, and it’s just the same for students. International students can study any topic, and the student visa enables them to work — whether that’s to support their education or fund their adventures exploring the country. 

The Australian welcome is not just down to the national history and culture though, the government has set explicit standards that universities must meet for international students to ensure that they have all the support they need while they are studying. 

Australia has 43 universities, mostly publicly funded. And all are research institutions, helping to support their academic credentials and making it the world’s fourth most popular destination (after the UK, US and France) for PhDs. 

Combined with Australia’s vibrant culture — whether it’s relaxing or surfing on the beaches or sampling the nightlife of the cities — and the opportunities that its generous student visa offers, the country has become a leading destination for students, with over half-a-million students heading to Australia every year to earn their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. 

Culture in Australia

Australia’s culture is similar to many Western nations, especially the UK, from where many Australians trace their heritage. However, the country’s history and unique geography have also shaped that culture. 

Aboriginals are believed to have lived in Australia for as much as 60,000 years, but the influx of Westerners from the late-eighteenth century onwards transformed the nation. Used first by the Europeans as a prison colony — criminals were often deported for relatively minor crimes — it was deportees and their families that shaped modern Australia’s early years. 

Combined with the sometimes inhospitable nature of the Australian landscape, people living here take pride in hard work and overcoming adversity. Alongside this, Australians tend to have a sense of egalitarianism and a self-deprecating sense of humour because most can trace their family to humble beginnings, and this is often exhibited in a friendly, ‘mate-ish’ culture. 

Cultural diversity in Australia

However, the country’s young age (compared to other nations) makes it hard to define uniquely Australian culture and traditions. Indeed, although the country has seen immigration from everywhere in the world, much of the culture remains influenced by the UK, which has, historically, provided the largest number of immigrants. 

Food culture  

Food culture is a good example of British cultural influence in Australia. Early settlers imported livestock, whether looking for home comforts or finding the local animals unappealing. The result is that English staples like beef and lamb remain a key part of the Australian diet. And where there has been some fusion with other cuisines, for example from Southeast Asia, there remains little to differentiate it from UK food. 

Languages spoken in Australia  

The UK influence can also be heard in the languages spoken in Australia. Although there is no official language, in practice it is English. And although there are some small groups with a different first language, almost everyone will have some fluency in English for day-to-day life. 

How to choose a university in Australia?

The right university is a very personal choice. Factors like the university’s reputation and subject choice will be important, but you should also consider things like the size and structure of the university. Although Australia has relatively few universities when compared to some other countries, it’s worth creating your own choosing-a-university checklist to make sure you are considering everything that’s important to you. 

Here are a few suggestions for what to include:

  • Think about the subject or field that you want to study or research. Although most Australian universities offer a full range of subjects, some do have some specialism and are members of networks like the Australian Technology Network or the Innovative Research Universities network. This can help you create a shortlist. 
  • Think about the student and living experience you want. Unlike many countries, Australia does not have a city or cities that dominate culture or specific sectors. However, nine out of ten people live in urban areas, which tend to be along the eastern and southern coasts. If you are looking for a beach, you are in luck! But if you would prefer a more campus-based experience, then you might want to consider universities like some of those in the Verdant University League, which have campuses built alongside unspoilt bushland and nature reserves. 
  • Think about the cost of living. Unfortunately, Australia is often listed as one of the world’s most expensive countries. But the expenses you incur will vary depending on where you study. Studying and living in central Sydney will be pricier than living on campus at a regional university. 
  • Consider the cultural experience you want. Australia remains a country that has high-levels of immigration: around one-third of the population are immigrants. However, this is not reflected in diversity, since the vast majority are from countries like the UK or New Zealand. While each university will have an international community, most immigrants tend to reside in the larger cities. 

What are the best universities in Australia

What makes a university ‘the best’ is a matter for debate, but the Times Higher Education ranking for 2023 suggests that the top five are: 

  • University of Melbourne . Australia’s second-oldest university, it has also produced more Nobel Laureates than any other Australian university and is arguably the country’s leading research university. 
  • Monash University . Another leading research university, Monash is the only Australian member of the M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities and National Academies. Its world-leading research resulted in the first IVF pregnancy, the development of antiviral drugs, and the breakthroughs in stem cell research. 
  • The University of Queensland . Offering a strong research focus, the university has over one hundred research centres and institutes, with many focusing no medicine and technology.  
  • University of Sydney . A consistently high-ranking university, both in Australia and globally, the University of Sydney is particularly strong in arts and humanities, and social science and business subjects. QS ranks it as the fourth most employable university in the world. 
  • Australian National University . Organised into colleges that lead teaching and research, one is the Asia and the Pacific college, making it a world-leading centre for study and research into the history, culture, and policy of the Pacific region. 

All five appear in the world top one hundred, where they are joined by UNSW Sydney and the University of Adelaide . 

>>> Click here for the full list of university rankings in Australia. 

What are the top student hubs in Australia? 

Melbourne tops the league in the QS rankings of student cities , coming fifth in the world thanks to its high student satisfaction scores. For international students, Melbourne is perhaps Australia’s most diverse city, with approximately 94,000 international students. 

Second (and ninth in the world), is Sydney . Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sydney’s cosmopolitan outlook, combined with a concentration of Australia’s best universities, makes it an attractive destination for any student. 

However, Australia, unlike most other countries, is notable for not having a dominant set of cities. And this perhaps explains why a further five Australian cities — Brisbane , Adelaide , Perth, Canberra , and Gold Coast — make a total of seven in the QS world top hundred best cities for international students. 

Tuition Fees in Australia

Education in most of the world is expensive and, sadly, Australia is no exception. Fees vary between universities and courses , but the Australian government’s Study Australia website offers a single place to get an overview of the courses available and their costs . 

For both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, fees range between AU $12,000 to as much as AU $65,000 a year. Typically, most are between AU $25,000 and AU $35,000 a year. Fees are broadly the same for both on-campus and online options. 

Domestic students, which includes not just Australians, but also New Zealanders, pay significantly lower fees. Students are required to contribute to their tuition, which is based on ability to pay and capped. It means that some students will not have to make any contribution, but no one will pay more than the maximum. 

The government caps vary to encourage students to study subjects where there are more employment opportunities. Law degrees, for example, have the highest cap at more than AU $15,000. However, for subjects like agriculture or nursing, the contribution will be just over AU $4,000. 

Like most places, there will be incidental costs that the student will be expected to meet, such as books and equipment. However, Australia also requires students to take out health insurance with an approved provider, which typically costs around AU $50 a month. However, students from New Zealand and some European countries can gain an exemption because of reciprocal healthcare arrangements. 

>>>Use the ‘Tuition fee’ filter on the left menu of our Bachelor’s , Master’s or PhD search pages to find the programme best suited for your budget. You can also sort the list of available programmes by Lowest tuition fee by clicking the top right Sort button.  

Can I study in Australia for free?

Although some countries do offer free education, they are becoming increasingly rare and usually targeted to domestic students or areas where there is a skills shortage. Sadly, there is no free education in Australia for international students. 

Australian and New Zealander applicants will have their course significantly discounted, although their maximum contribution can still be sizeable. However, there is a range of financial assistance packages available, ranging from a reduced contribution for families with lower incomes, to support to access education for those from Aboriginal or regional communities. 

Financial Aid and Scholarships in Australia

The aid you can access will depend on where you are from, your status and where you are studying. But regardless of your situation, there will be options available for you. However, if funding is an issue, it’s well worth investigating the scholarship options before you apply. Not only might it affect your choice of university, but some are only open before you have secured a place at a university. 

>>> We have compiled a list of scholarships that you can apply for when you are studying in Australia. 

Types of scholarships on offer

There are a range of awards available, including those awarded based on your academic ability or financial means, and as both grants and loans. Our article on the different types of scholarships and how to apply will help begin your search. 

You should always check the eligibility criteria, but, typically, there is no limit to the number that you can apply for (although they are likely to place limits on how many you can accept!) so it’s sensible to apply for several. It is far better to have too many options than none. 

Where you can find scholarships

Mastersportal scholarship search is a great place to start. It lists over 1,500 scholarships from both universities and outside bodies that offer support to students in Australia. 

It’s also worth checking the Studyportals Scholarship . Our International Distinction Award is open to all international students, and you can find out more by reading our FAQ.  

The Australian government’s scholarships page is also a useful resource, containing details of the scholarships that are organised by or with relevant departments. 

Finally, check with universities that you are interested in. All universities will have a range of scholarships and bursaries amiable for students, and you might be the ideal candidate not just for a course, but also for one of their bursaries. 

How to apply

Once you’ve done your research and identified the scholarships that you are interested in, it’s time to complete the applications. Remember that most are competitive, so there’s no guarantee that, however good a match you think you are, that you will be successful. It’s sensible to apply for more than you need. 

The following steps are a useful guide for making your applications: 

  • Check the eligibility criteria and make sure you meet all the requirements. These might include your academic record, nationality, age, subject, even your family background. Every scholarship will have many applications, so if you don’t fully meet the criteria, even if you think you are close, don’t waste your time applying. 
  • Gather all the documents you require. Each scholarship will detail the evidence they require for your application. While you might be lucky if you forget something and get a chance to submit that forgotten transcript or statement, it will usually mean your application is rejected. 
  • Complete the application. These may have different formats, ranging from simple forms to personal statements. Whatever the format, take the time to get someone to check the form. Someone like a tutor will be ideal since, even if they do not administer scholarships, they will have an idea of the sort of things the scheme will be looking for. 
  • Send your application! This might seem like a simple step, but one that is often missed as people delay while they review and revise their form. Set yourself an application deadline that is before the actual deadline to make sure you get it all sent off in good time. 
  • Wait for the response. This might be a tense period, but you will need patience. Depending on the scheme, you might have to attend an interview or provide additional evidence. If you will have to attend an interview, use this time to take a look at our advice on how to do well. 
  • Accept the offer. The best part, but make sure you don’t just accept. There will be terms and conditions that you should make sure you fully understand and can meet before you accept. And if you have other applications that are not decided yet, you might want to wait to make sure you commit to the best option available to you. 

What to include in your application

Each scheme will state what they want to see from you and the format they require it in. However, they will always want to know why you are applying for financial aid and how it will help you meet your academic goals. This will usually be requested in the form of a personal statement or a letter of motivation . Like any application you make in your career, while the underlying reasons may be the same, it’s worth personalising your applications, so they are relevant to the scheme you are applying to. 

Other information that applications are likely to require are: 

  • Personal information, this might be simple factual information, but some schemes may be interested in your family background, for example if they are targeting first-generation students. 
  • Your academic history, such as certificates or transcripts. 
  • Letters of recommendation, which might be provided by teachers, tutors, or employers. 
  • Financial information, which can establish your need for financial aid. 
  • Supporting materials, this might be a portfolio of your previous work, or an essay required for the scholarship to demonstrate your abilities. 

Interested in scholarships for Australia? Check out our scholarship search page.

Apply to university in Australia

For domestic students, applications to universities are done through a number of state-based central admissions systems, for example, the Victoria Tertiary Admissions Centre for universities in Victoria or the Universities Admissions Centre in New South Wales and ACT. Although there are differences between each scheme, candidates can make multiple applications, listing universities by preference in each, meaning they are able — with just a handful of formal applications — to apply to dozens of universities. 

Unfortunately, international students, regardless of the level of course they are seeking, are not included in the process. Instead, international students have to apply directly, and individually, to each institution. 

Exactly how you apply for university in Australia will depend on the institution. Each university has its own application process. While these are all very similar, there may be slight differences between each, so make sure you carefully check the requirements of everywhere that you want to apply. Missing a deadline or a crucial document could make the difference between getting your dream course and having to settle for something else. 

Typically, the application process is completed entirely via the university's website, and most have a useful guide, so you know exactly how to apply to a university online before you start. 

Assuming you have already identified the course you want to study, the first thing to check will be that you are eligible to apply. The eligibility criteria will be listed on your course page and typically include having a recognised qualification and meeting the English proficiency requirement. You will need to evidence that you meet these in your application. 

You will also need to submit a range of documents as an international student. These will, obviously, include your academic records, but also some personal documents, such a copy of your passport and documents attesting to your identity. In some circumstances, universities may also be required to confirm your eligibility to enter Australia. 

How much does it cost 

While you do not have course fees to pay before you apply to university, you will often be required to confirm that you understand the fee structure and will pay when required. Some scholarships are not available after you have applied and accepted a place, so make sure you are clear that you have the finances in place before you apply. 

Finally, although you do not have to pay course fees, you do have to pay to apply to university, more specifically, you will be charged an application processing fee. This fee is levied by almost every university and is usually between AU $50 to AU $150. 

How many times can you apply 

As an international student, you do not have a limit on your applications, so you can apply to more than one university at the same time, or even multiple courses at the same university. However, the application processing fee is likely to be your limiting factor, along with the time taken for each application, so you are likely to want to focus your applications to those where you really want to study and have a reasonable chance of success. 

What’s the structure of the Australian academic year

Australia’s academic year is similar to many other Western universities and operates a semester-based year. 

  • Undergraduate degrees are typically three years, or four years for an honours degree. Postgraduate degrees are one or two years for a Masters, and three for a PhD. 
  • Most universities have two semesters a year (although a few operate with three trimesters) 
  • The academic year starts in March. 
  • Many universities and courses offer two starts a year, but not all, so check if you want a September start. 

When to apply for Australian universities

Because international students apply directly, and most universities offer two starts a year, applications are almost always open for international students. Check with the university, though, since some do close applications at specific periods, or have courses that only offer a single intake a year. 

Generally, the deadline to apply for university depends on the preferred start date. For those hoping to start in the first semester, applications must typically be made by December at the latest, while second semester starts should apply by the preceding May. 

However, it’s sensible to apply as early as possible. Many universities will process applications quickly, and if you are not accepted, that means you have more time to consider and apply to alternatives. 

Documents needed to apply for university

Typically, Australian universities will ask for the same documents needed to apply for university anywhere. These will include: 

  • a copy of your passport 
  • copies of relevant qualifications 
  • evidence that you meet the language requirements for the course 
  • evidence of any scholarship you are receiving 
  • a reference or letter of recommendation from a school or tutor 
  • evidence of any additional requirements listed for the course 

In some cases, you may have to provide additional evidence of your right to enter Australia. And if your documents are not in English, you will also have to provide a translation provided the issuing body or a government-certified translator. 

Language requirements

As an English-speaking country, all courses in Australian universities are delivered in English. You will therefore have to demonstrate fluency. Either by being a native English speaker or having passed English language tests. 

Individual universities and even courses may have their own requirements. However, most major English language tests are recognised and accepted. 

  • IELTS . This test scores between 0 and 9 for listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English. A typical requirement will be an overall score of at least 6.5, with no individual skill below 6. 
  • TOEFL-IBT . Like IELTS, the TEEFL-IBT gives individual scores for listening, speaking, reading and writing, with a maximum of 30 in each category. You will usually need at least 85 overall, with minimums of 17-19 in each category. 
  • PTE Academic . This test gives scores for speaking, writing, listening and speaking, each with a maximum score of 90. Universities often ask for a score of around 60, with a minimum of 55 in each of the 4 skills.

Student housing in Australia

You will need somewhere to live while you are studying . The options available to you will depend on your university, its location, and your preferences. 

  • University provided accommodation. Many universities will have accommodation they manage for students. But few will have enough to house all their students, though, so it is often prioritised for particular groups, such as international students and first year undergraduates. Check with your university to see what they have on offer and how you can apply. 
  • Managed student accommodation. Privately run student accommodation is becoming increasingly common, especially in urban locations. These will typically include a room which shares communal facilities such as living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms. They will usually include costs like energy and internet, some will even include things like servicing, or have canteens on site. 
  • Private renting or leasing. Although more common for the second year and after, when you have established friends with whom you can share, there are lots of sites that can help you find places to rent, often targeted at students. 

When to apply for student accommodation

You can find out when to apply for university accommodation through your university website. However, if you are considering private options, it’s sensible to start looking as soon as you have confirmation of your place. There is usually a high demand for accommodation, especially in cities, where students can find themselves competing with everyone else to find somewhere to live. 

Useful resources for finding accommodation 

  • Amber is a portal that lists private student accommodation across the world. 
  • Student is another portal which focuses on helping international students identify accommodation 
  • Property is a general real estate sales and rental site, but features properties that will be suitable for students. 

Cost of living in Australia

The cost of living can be subjective, and much will depend on your expectations. Students are often masters at living inexpensively in even the most expensive locations! However, most independent sources suggest that Australia is one of the most expensive places to live in the world, with a cost of living that is significantly higher than, say, the UK or USA. 

The government’s Study Australia website provides a cost of living calculator that indicates the likely costs you will incur, even looking at the frugal lifestyles tends to suggest annual costs of around AU $20,000. 

Perhaps predictably, the most expensive cost is accommodation, which can be more than AU $2,000 a month for an apartment in Sydney city centre. But even ‘cheap’ activities can be expensive, a typical meal in a low-cost restaurant will be around AU $25. 

Cost of food in Australia 

The cost of food in Australia, like everything else, is high when compared internationally. While the prices will vary depending on lifestyle — a vegetarian diet will be cheaper than a meat-eating diet — you can typically expect to spend around AU $500 a month on food, and significantly more if you eat out regularly. 

Work and study in Australia

The Australian student visa allows students to work while they are in Australia. This can be useful whether you need the income to fund your studies, or simply want some extra cash to enjoy the experiences that the country has to offer. 

Are international students allowed to work in Australia?

Working hours for international students in Australia are limited to 48 hours every two weeks during semesters, and unlimited during vacations. However, unlike some countries, there are no limits on where that work is, or what sector it is in. It means that students have a wide-range of job options. 

Indeed, apart from the limit on working hours, student visa holders have the same benefits and work protection as any Australian, even having the right to start their own business. 

Where can I find jobs?

The first place to start is with your university. Their career service will usually have a host of jobs that suitable for students, often from employers that are specifically looking for student employees. 

However, there are also lots of other places to look, including Student Job Board , SEEK , and Indeed . 

>>> Read this article for Tips on Finding Part-Time Jobs for International Students , including ideas of how to get an internship or a work from home job for students. 

Is Australia safe?

Australia is generally seen as a safe country. However, the question of whether Australia is safe, or safe for international students, will depend on exactly where in Australia the question is being asked. It is a vast country, and the dangers can vary dramatically. 

Typically, crime in Australia is low, and it follows a similar pattern to other Western countries, being higher in urban areas and lower in rural areas, with the types of crime driven largely by opportunity. 

However, safety is not just about crime. Many sites will warn travellers not against the dangers of theft or robbery, but to be aware of some of the dangerous plants and animals that inhabit parts of Australia! 

Wherever you are, or whatever you are doing in Australia, simple common sense can keep you safe. 

  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you are somewhere unfamiliar. 
  • Avoid dark areas where there are few people around. 
  • Be careful in busy areas, especially at night, when opportunities are created for thieves and pickpockets. 
  • Be careful when withdrawing cash from ATMs 
  • Remember the emergency number. Australia uses 000 for emergency services, but 112 can also be used from mobile phones. 

Healthcare options 

Australia operates a mixed private-public healthcare system, providing free healthcare as needed to Australian citizens . However, many will also have health insurance to cover medical needs that are not available in the public system, or to provide extras if treated in the public system. 

Most international students, however, will not be eligible for free healthcare. Unless they are from one of the countries that have a healthcare agreement with Australia — such as New Zealand and many European countries — they will need to have health insurance in place. 

Take care when researching your insurance options, so you have the level of cover that is right for you. As well as being a requirement, healthcare can be very expensive. Even if you consider yourself fit and healthy, an accident or unexpected illness can result in a very large bill. 

Student insurance in Australia

Overseas Student Health Cover is the only insurance that is mandatory for international students. Only approved insurers can provide this, and it is available in a range of covers, for example including additional benefits or covering a dependent family if they are travelling with you. Typically, you can expect to spend at least AU $500 a year for this, but you might be able to get cheaper quotes by shopping around or committing to multi-year cover with your insurer. 

However, it’s also sensible to consider what other insurance you might need. Your circumstances will determine the type and level of cover that is appropriate for you. It is sensible to consider insurance for your possession, since things like your computer and even textbooks can be expensive to replace if stolen or damaged. But you might also want to consider other policies like renters’ insurance for college students or travel insurance if they are appropriate to you. 

>>>  Request an Aon Student Insurance online . For international students, researchers, Erasmus students and educational staff - we have the right insurance for your situation.

Support services available for international students

Your university or college will provide student support services, and almost certainly will have services dedicated to international students. Before the Covid-19 pandemic there were over half-a-million international students registered at Australian universities, and since the pandemic the number has been returning to that level. International students represent a major part of the education sector economy and, through that, the Australian economy. 

As a result, the Australian government also operates its own international student service. While this is largely dedicated to ensuring that individual universities provide support, it offers its own resources, and can be an especially useful source of information whether you are thinking about Australia or are already there. 

Most other resources are organised on a state level, so when you have a place, it’s worth researching the services that may be on offer to you in that state. However, it is worth noting that most statewide organisations prioritise the support they offer to students that cannot get support from their university. 

Student organisations

Nationally, there is the Council of International Students Australia , which acts as a representative organisation for international students. However, most other student organisations are organised on a state, city, or university basis. An example is the Oz International Student Hub in Sydney. Some others are available for particular groups, such as the Asian International Students of Australia . Your university will be the best starting point to identify the organisations that best represent you. 

Things to do for students on a budget

The high cost of living in Australia does not mean there is a shortage of things to do, even when money is tight. There are plenty of cheap and free things to do in Australia. But remember that Australia is vast, it’s not just the world’s sixth-largest country, it’s also the smallest continent! We’ve listed some ideas here and tried to pick things from different parts of the country, but a little research will find plenty of things for you to do wherever you are. 

Top urban attractions for students

  • Can you go to Australia without visiting Sydney Harbour? With the iconic sights of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge it’s one of the most recognisable views in the world. Free walking tours are available, so you can find out more about the buildings, or find your way to some of the area’s best food-and-drink spots. 
  • Melbourne has a rivalry with Sydney, and a Melbournian will be quick to assure you it’s the best city. It is a centre for art and culture, but if you want something different, head to the suburb of St Kilda, where you spot the penguins roosting at the end of the pier every night. 
  • Head to the Gold Coast, which is also well-known for the high-rise towers that loom over the golden beaches. If you can resist (or hate) the sand between your toes, the city offers everything you need for an urban escape, from retail therapy in glamorous malls, to adrenaline-fuelled fun in theme parks. 
  • Brisbane also lays claim to being an Australian cultural centre. It is the only place in Australia where you can spend a morning enjoying the culture of museums and galleries before heading to a man-made inner-city beach to relax on the sand! 
  • Perth is home to a large part of Australia’s history, and the port of Fremantle offers a range of attractions celebrating Australia’s maritime past, and Fremantle Prison, the state’s first jail. 

Top 5 Outdoor Attractions

  • Uluru is probably Australia’s most recognisable natural landmark. A large sandstone rock, it has enormous cultural significance for the Aboriginal people and visitors can no longer climb it. However, its size means it has to be seen to be appreciated, and it is an awe-inspiring and unforgettable sight even from ground level. 
  • The Great Barrier Reef stretches for over 1,400 miles off the coast of Queensland. The largest coral reef system in the world, it is even visible from space. Boat trips are available to visit the reef, while the more adventurous can try snorkelling or scuba diving to see parts of it close up. 
  • Litchfield National Park is a few hours from Darwin and showcases the stunning diversity of Australia. The forest contains a series of pools and waterfalls that are popular spots for people to take a dip. 
  • Lake Hillier, on the West Coast, is perhaps the most famous of the pink lakes. The water takes on a pink hue believed to be caused by organisms in it (and making it a subject of ongoing research). It is especially vibrant when viewed from overhead, and several companies offer tourist flights. 
  • The Great Ocean Road is an ideal way to not just take in Australia’s beauty, but also enjoy a fantastic road-trip. Around 150 miles long, it is easily travelled in a day, but with delightful seaside towns, the opportunity to see some of Australia’s more unusual wildlife, like the platypus, and sights like the Twelve Apostles, it can easily be a multi-day road-trip. 

Travelling in Australia

Being an English-speaking nation is a great advantage to international students because there is no shortage of opportunities to practice, even before you get there. If you are not from an English-speaking country, you will almost certainly know English-speakers that can help you. But there are plenty of other ways to practice. 

  • Try watching English TV shows and movies, with subtitles if you need. 
  • Download English podcasts, some are designed for various levels of English fluency, so you can practice listening to English speakers 
  • Read English books, newspapers, or websites. 
  • Use apps like Duolingo. 

Living as an expat in Australia

After you have finished your studies in Australia, you might decide that you want to stay there. If you do, you want be alone, a lot of the expats in Australia never intended to stay, until they fell in love with the country. 

However, your student visa stops being valid when your course ends, so you will have to apply for a new or different visa. Australia is very strict about immigration, so if you want to remain in the country, it’s worth preparing well before you graduate. 

Expat communities in Australia

Australia has an incredibly large expatriate community, with more than one-in-four Australian residents born elsewhere. However, it is not necessarily the most diverse group of expatriates: over a million of them are from the UK, attracted by a Western culture, common language, and significantly better weather than at home! 

However, there are still plenty of communities from across the world living in Australia. After the UK, the largest foreign-born populations are from India (around 700,000 people), China (approximately 600,000), and New Zealand (560,000). According to the most recent Australian census, there are sixteen countries that have a population of more than 100,000 people living in Australia. 

The largest foreign-born populations are found in the cities, with Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth having the largest populations. 

Australia Immigration rules

How your immigration status changes after graduation.

Your student visa is only valid for the duration of the course you applied for, to a maximum of five years. When your course finishes, or five years have passed, you must apply for a new visa to remain in Australia. 

The Australian immigration process does have many options, though, and it’s likely there will be a suitable visa that you can apply for. However, although the Australian student visa immigration process is quite straightforward, the rules for other visas can be complex, even considering factors like whether you studied at a rural university. It’s worth taking the time to identify the right visa for you. 

Types of Visa

Australia’s immigration and citizenship service lists over 70 types of visa, but for international students who are about to graduate, the most important ones are likely to be those in the ‘working and skilled visa’ category . 

For those who have a job, it may be possible to obtain a visa sponsored by an employer. However, for others, the Temporary Graduate visa allows graduates from Australian universities to remain in the country for between two and four years, depending on the qualification. Those who graduated from a regional university can apply for a follow-on visa, which will give them another one to two years. 

Immigration processing times

Processing times and costs for visas will vary depending on the type of visa requested. A graduate visa costs AU $1,730, and around half of applications are granted within four months. However, official statistics state that 10% take longer than 15 months, so you should plan well ahead if you want to remain after your course finishes. 

Job opportunities in Australia

The Australian economy is one of the world’s largest and typically has low overall unemployment rates and high employment rates for professionals. It makes it a great place for graduates to seek work . Most graduate and postgraduate level jobs will tend to be focused in and around cities, and as a developed economy will have a similar mix of job-types as elsewhere. 

However, do bear in mind Australia’s immigration rules. These can limit job opportunities in Australia for foreigners because it can be harder to secure a visa. Those with qualifications that match identified shortages within Australia, such as engineering, will find it a lot easier to get a visa since they can apply for a skilled worker visa. Others might be reliant on having, or finding, an employer that will sponsor them to enter the country. 

If you are looking for graduate work in Australia why not try: 

  • Indeed is an international recruitment site, so you can find graduate level jobs anywhere you want. 
  • SEEK is an Australian jobs site. 
  • GradAustralia is a specialist site and can help you find internships and placements as well as jobs. 

Continue your studies in Australia

If you are coming towards the end of your course and are keen to continue studying, there are plenty of options. Remember, though, that you will need a new student visa, and if you are already in Australia, you will have to apply before your previous visa expires or leave the country. 

One thing to note is that, generally, you can only apply for a student visa to study at the same or higher Australian Qualification Framework level than you have previously been granted. The exception to this is at the very top, when you can apply for a student visa to undertake further Master’s level study after a PhD. A bachelor’s degree is level seven.  

  • A postgraduate certificate or diploma. Although often seen as around the same level as a degree academically, these are at level eight on the AQF. They are typically more specialised and often a prerequisite for some careers. 
  • A Master’s degree. Sitting at level nine on the AQF, if you already have a Bachelor’s degree, or sometimes have relevant life and career experience, you might consider applying for a masters’ degree. We list over 3,300 Master’s degrees in Australia . 
  • A doctorate. A doctor of philosophy (PhD) is the highest-level qualification you can get — level ten on the AQF — and usually takes at least three years of original research, which should add to the sum of human knowledge. We list over 180 PhDs offered by Australian universities . 

Frequently asked questions

1. do international students need a visa to study in australia .

Yes, international students need a visa to study in Australia. The Student visa (subclass 500) lets you remain for up to five years while your course lasts, allows you to work while in Australia, and entitles a partner and dependents to apply for a visa to join you. 

2. Is studying in Australia worth it? 

Australia has some of the world’s best universities, as well as some of the world’s best student cities. With plenty of scholarship opportunities, and the potential to remain in Australia with a graduate visa, it’s a very attractive option for more than half-a-million international students every year. 

3. What is the cost of studying in Australia? 

Fees vary between universities and courses. However, they are typically between AU $25,000 and AU $35,000 a year, although some specialist subjects can be as much as AU $65,000. 

4. How much money is required to study in Australia? 

Australia has a high cost of living. You can expect, even with a frugal lifestyle, to need at least AU $20,000 a year. 

5. Can I study in Australia without IELTS? 

You will need to demonstrate enough fluency in English to cope with your course. If you’re educated in an English-speaking country, this may not be necessary. Alternatively, all universities accept PTE Academic and most also accept TOEFL-IBT. 

6. What are the requirements to study in Australia? 

You will need to have secured a place at a recognised institution through their application process. Once you have this, you must apply for a student visa to allow you to travel to Australia. 

7. What exams are required to study in Australia? 

The exact exams and results will vary between courses and universities. For undergraduate courses, these will be the equivalent of Australia’s secondary education certificate (which itself varies between states), such as A-levels, International or European Baccalaureate or the American SAT. For postgraduate courses, it will be a relevant undergraduate qualification. 

8. How to get permanent residency while studying in Australia? 

Interesting programmes for you, find phds degrees in australia, what subject to study in australia.

  • Agriculture & Forestry 5 Masters
  • Applied Sciences & Professions 11 Masters
  • Arts, Design & Architecture 34 Masters
  • Business & Management 59 Masters
  • Computer Science & IT 53 Masters
  • Education & Training 25 Masters
  • Engineering & Technology 75 Masters
  • Environmental Studies & Earth Sciences 30 Masters
  • Hospitality, Leisure & Sports 3 Masters
  • Humanities 49 Masters
  • Journalism & Media 2 Masters
  • Law 21 Masters
  • Medicine & Health 85 Masters
  • Natural Sciences & Mathematics 56 Masters
  • Social Sciences 53 Masters

PhD Degrees in Australia

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) 418 programmes
  • Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.) 3 programmes
  • Doctorate (Doctorate) 30 programmes

Recent international policies promote international university cooperation and student exchange between countries worldwide. High-quality study and PhD degrees are made more available to students in order to create a global educational network, achievable through student and staff mobility. Career and research oriented programmes support international student development.

University cooperation enables students study worldwide, for instance in Australia, Asia, Europe and the United States and provides ways of recognizing previous degrees. Different study options offer appropriate alternatives to students, depending on their preferred mode of study.

Many study programmes in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America are English-taught. The most popular international student destinations include the following countries: Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States, and more. However, these are not the only countries offering English-taught education. The rest of the world is full of endless study choices, from highly ranked to smaller, more specialized, universities.

PhD (postgraduate) Degrees

If you want further education beyond the undergraduate level or if you want more personal development or a career in academia, you could obtain a PhD degree. PhD degrees are postgraduate programmes that usually follow a Master's, MPhil or MRes, but there might be additional requirements depending on the university. Students are required to do their own research in a chosen topic. With the help of a supervisor, you develop knowledge and analytical skills in a specific or multidisciplinary field and you carry out independent research. The duration of a PhD degree differs per country and institution. Sometimes your own research is accompanied by work for the department such as giving seminars or small group teaching.

PhD students are required to study on campus under close supervision, but there are universities that accept students enrolled into a part-time distance education PhD degree. Studying on campus can also be full-time as well as part-time, in which case the part-time variant is normally twice as long as the full-time study.

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Participation, Job Search and Mobility, Australia

Labour participation potential, underemployment and job attachment, job search experience, labour mobility, hours worked, industry and occupation.

  • Participation, Job Search and Mobility, Australia Reference Period February 2023
  • Participation, Job Search and Mobility, Australia Reference Period February 2022
  • Participation, Job Search and Mobility, Australia Reference Period February 2021
  • View all releases

Key statistics

In  February 2024:

  • 1.9 million people were not working but wanted to work 
  • Job mobility decreased to 8% for the first time in 3 years
  • The annual retrenchment rate was 1.7%, an increase from 1.4% in February 2023
  • Of the 14.5 million employed people in May 2024, 1.7 million were underemployed.

Statistics from the Participation, Job Search and Mobility (PJSM) survey are published in three topic-based releases.

Potential workers

Job mobility.

  • Underemployed workers 

Microdata and Tablebuilder

Microdata from the PJSM survey for 2015 to 2024 is available in TableBuilder  and DataLab (as a supplementary file to the Longitudinal Labour Force ). For more information, refer to Microdata and TableBuilder: Participation, Job Search and Mobility

A detailed data item list for the PJSM microdata is available in  Microdata and TableBuilder: Participation, Job Search and Mobility

Data downloads

How to use tables.

  • Select a state or territory
  • The estimates shown in the table are for the most recent time period (February 2024)
  • The corresponding Time Series ID links to series of annual estimates for earlier time periods (2015 to 2023)

Screenshot of a Table showing how to use the layout to find the latest estimates plus links to Time series data for previous estimates

Example of a times series table highlighting cells for:

  • Selected state or territory (Australian Capital Territory)
  • The latest estimate for 'Discouraged job seekers - available within 4 weeks but discouraged from actively looking' (Persons)

Table 1. Potential workers and discouraged job seekers

Table 2. characteristics of discouraged job seekers and other potential workers, table 3. duration since last job and main activity of discouraged job seekers and other potential workers, table 4. main reason for not actively looking for work of persons who wanted to work and were available, table 4a. reasons did not actively look for work, table 5. job search experience of unemployed persons, table 6. characteristics of successful and unsuccessful job search experience, table 7. number of job offers while looking for work, table 8. main difficulty and duration of job search of unemployed persons, table 9. main difficulty in finding work by age of unemployed persons, relative standard errors, tables 1 to 9, table 1. labour mobility, retrenchments and duration of employment, table 2. retrenchments and other reasons for ceasing a job last year, table 3. changes in employment characteristics of people employed last year, table 4. separations and other changes in employment of people employed last year by industry, table 5. engagements and other changes in employment of people employed last year by industry, table 6. separations and other changes in employment of people employed last year by occupation, table 7. engagements and other changes in employment of people employed last year by occupation, relative standard errors, tables 1 to 7, underemployed workers, table 1. cyclical and structural underemployment of full-time and part-time workers, table 2. extended measures of underutilisation, table 3. underemployment status of full-time and part-time workers, table 4. part-time workers who prefer more hours, table 5. characteristics of part-time workers who prefer more hours, table 6. duration of insufficient hours of underemployed part-time workers, table 7. number of extra weekly hours preferred by underemployed part-time workers, table 8. main difficulty in finding more work of underemployed part-time workers, relative standard errors, tables 2 to 8, microdata and tablebuilder, table 1. populations, relative standard errors, table 1, previous catalogue number.

This release previously used catalogue number 6226.0* (and 6226.0.55.001 in 2014).

Prior to 2014, statistics were published in:

  • Labour Mobility  (6209.0), 1972-2013.
  • Persons Not in the Labour Force  (6220.0), 1975-2013.
  • Job Search Experience  (6222.0), 1976-2013.
  • Underemployed workers  (6265.0), 1985-2013.
  • Labour Force Experience (6206.0), 1968-2011.
  • Career Experience  (6254.0), 1993-2002.
  • Retrenchment and Redundancy  (6266.0), 1997-2001.
  • Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience  (6245.0), 1982-2000.
  • Persons Who Had Re-entered The Labour Force  (6264.0), 1985-1995.
  • Persons Who Have Left The Labour Force  (6267.0), 1985-1994.
  • Labour Turnover  (6210.0), 1949-1976.

* Note: Catalogue number 6226.0 was previously used for  School Leavers, 1970 to 1974: their Employment Status and Education Experience , May 1975.


Media releases, job mobility drops back to pre-covid levels, do you need more detailed statistics, request data.

We can provide customised data to meet your requirements

We can provide access to detailed, customisable data on selected topics

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Factors influencing the employment of Australian PhD graduates

Research output : Contribution to journal › Article › peer-review

It has long been argued in many Western countries that having a highly skilled workforce is crucial to innovation and national competitiveness. Ensuring the employment of the most highly educated members of a country's population is integral to helping achieve such economic outcomes. Therefore, the objective of this study is to identify the major factors that account for the initial full-time employment of Australian-trained PhD graduates. It draws on a national survey conducted in 2011 (n = 2761) and 2012 (n = 3181) of PhD graduates in Australia across all major disciplines four to six months after conferral of their degree. The findings reveal that previous work experience; attendance at a research-intensive university; completing one's degree off campus; part-time status; the use of certain job search strategies and access to research culture and networking opportunities; as well as certain demographic characteristics influence initial post-graduation job attainment. Implications of the findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1660-1678
Number of pages19
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

Access to Document

  • 10.1080/03075079.2014.899344

Other files and links

  • Link to publication in Scopus


  • graduate Social Sciences 100%
  • job search Social Sciences 96%
  • competitiveness Social Sciences 73%
  • networking Social Sciences 66%
  • time Social Sciences 54%
  • innovation Social Sciences 50%
  • university Social Sciences 36%
  • economics Social Sciences 33%

T1 - Factors influencing the employment of Australian PhD graduates

AU - Jackson, Denise

AU - Michelson, Grant

PY - 2015/10/21

Y1 - 2015/10/21

N2 - It has long been argued in many Western countries that having a highly skilled workforce is crucial to innovation and national competitiveness. Ensuring the employment of the most highly educated members of a country's population is integral to helping achieve such economic outcomes. Therefore, the objective of this study is to identify the major factors that account for the initial full-time employment of Australian-trained PhD graduates. It draws on a national survey conducted in 2011 (n = 2761) and 2012 (n = 3181) of PhD graduates in Australia across all major disciplines four to six months after conferral of their degree. The findings reveal that previous work experience; attendance at a research-intensive university; completing one's degree off campus; part-time status; the use of certain job search strategies and access to research culture and networking opportunities; as well as certain demographic characteristics influence initial post-graduation job attainment. Implications of the findings are discussed.

AB - It has long been argued in many Western countries that having a highly skilled workforce is crucial to innovation and national competitiveness. Ensuring the employment of the most highly educated members of a country's population is integral to helping achieve such economic outcomes. Therefore, the objective of this study is to identify the major factors that account for the initial full-time employment of Australian-trained PhD graduates. It draws on a national survey conducted in 2011 (n = 2761) and 2012 (n = 3181) of PhD graduates in Australia across all major disciplines four to six months after conferral of their degree. The findings reveal that previous work experience; attendance at a research-intensive university; completing one's degree off campus; part-time status; the use of certain job search strategies and access to research culture and networking opportunities; as well as certain demographic characteristics influence initial post-graduation job attainment. Implications of the findings are discussed.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84941730704&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1080/03075079.2014.899344

DO - 10.1080/03075079.2014.899344

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84941730704

SN - 0307-5079

JO - Studies in Higher Education

JF - Studies in Higher Education

  • Research degrees
  • Your research options

International PhD opportunities

When you undertake a joint PhD you will access expertise, resources and training from two institutions. As well as the University of Melbourne, you will spend at least 12 months at an international institution. This means your research will benefit from a global perspective, enhancing your prospects for an international research career. Upon completion, your joint PhD will be recognised by two testamurs – one from each partner university.

Learn how an international joint PhD opportunity in chemistry helped fulfil both professional and personal ambitions for Dr Susi Seibt . Since completing her joint PhD in Germany and Australia, Dr Seibt has landed her dream job at the Australian Synchrotron.

Current joint PhD research opportunities

International joint PhD projects open for application are listed below. These projects are fully funded.

The latest opportunities are also searchable via the Find A Research Project Tool.

Find a Project

New alloy design approach for Mg alloys

Two fully funded Joint PhD positions on New alloy design approach for Mg alloys with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China).

Unmanned aerial and surface vehicles (UAVs and USVs)

Two fully funded Joint PhD positions on Unmanned aerial and surface vehicles (UAVs and USVs) with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China).

Optimal orthopaedic implant/bone integration

Two fully funded Joint PhD positions on Optimal orthopaedic implant/bone integration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China).

Turbulent flows and their application to aerospace systems

Two fully funded Joint PhD positions on Turbulent flows and their application to aerospace systems with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China).

Visualising the dynamics of horizontal gene transfer during bacterial conjugation

Two fully-funded projects investigating dynamical interactions and subcellular localisation of the bacterial conjugation machinery with Berlin University Alliance (Germany).

Identification and characterization of microRNAs essential for the development and fitness of chemoresistant acute myeloid leukemia

One fully funded Joint PhD position on identification and characterisation of microRNAs essential for the development and fitness of chemoresistant acute myeloid leukemia with the University of Toronto.

Green infrastructure and invertebrate communities

One fully funded Joint PhD position on the cooling footprint of green infrastructure and influence on urban invertebrate communities with the University of Toronto.

Shape shifting molecules

Two fully funded Joint PhD positions to use light to control and explore molecular structure and function with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel).

Mental health and cognitive status in late life depression (LLD)

Two fully funded Joint PhD positions to improve outcomes related to mental health and cognitive status in late life depression (LLD) with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel).

Immunology and infection

Various fully joint PhD positions available in the field of infection and immunity, with the University of Bonn (Germany).

Cell-scale MRI

One fully funded joint PhD position available investigating detection of MRI signals on the cellular level, with Hebrew University Jerusalem (Israel).

Exciton science

Eight fully funded joint PhD positions to research light-based energy in exciton science, with the University of Bayreuth (Germany).

Find a Research Project- IRTG filter

Find a research project, filtered under International Research Training Groups (IRTGs).

Find out more about our international partner institutions and how to apply for a joint PhD .

Keep reading

A joint phd creates career opportunities around the world.

Find out what it’s like to undertake a joint PhD in Germany and Australia. Learn how an international joint PhD can shape your career and your life choices.

Explore research areas

Discover your graduate research options at the University of Melbourne.

Supplementary PhD Programs

Learn more about the University of Melbourne’s supplementary PhD programs. These programs help to broaden your networks and enhance your career prospects.

Interdisciplinary research programs

Explore the University’s interdisciplinary research programs for graduate researchers. Collaborations include PhD programs, institutes and centres.

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PhD by Distance

Become world-ready, from wherever you are in the world, with a UTS PhD by distance mode.

If your research is based internationally but you want access to UTS's world-leading researchers and reputation, you've been required to complete a PhD for your career but you don't want to relocate, or you want to expand your global networks to create real-world research impact, the PhD by distance mode might be right for you. 

A UTS PhD by distance mode empowers you to develop your future as a researcher in a global context —all without applying for a visa or subletting your apartment.

What you can expect

  • full enrolment as a PhD student at UTS
  • supervision and mentorship from a panel of experts
  • administrative support and guidance from your faculty
  • PhD from a Top 100 global university
  • access to UTS online facilities and resources
  • high-quality research training and professional skills development 

Study requirements

The study expectations of PhD by distance mode students are the same as on-campus students. This means that you will:

  • need to meet the same admissions requirements , including English-language proficiency
  • be supported by a panel of supervisors
  • complete any mandatory coursework
  • go through the same candidature stage assessments as other PhDs from your faculty
  • be subject to the same student rules that govern PhD study at UTS
  • have the same expected timelines for your study as other PhD students
  • be liable for the same course fees as other international students unless you are assessed as eligible for a tuition fee scholarship

Support and development

As a fully-enrolled UTS student, you’ll have access to a variety of forms of support for your research, your professional development as a researcher, and your own health and wellbeing, including:

  • UTS Library’s extensive digital catalogue and one-on-one researcher support
  • online skills development workshops and training modules, including in areas like research writing, software training, and project management
  • personalised advice from UTS Careers and access to online resources 
  • inclusion in the online research student Teams channel

Find more information about the support available to you as a distance mode PhD student  (PDF, 0.8MB).  Please note that not all benefits available to on-campus students exist in digital form or translate to distance study.

Find out more: Distance mode is available for international students. Read all admissions requirements → There are scholarships that can help with fees. Find out more about the costs of a PhD by distance → Ready for the next steps? Explore the application process → 

UTS acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the Boorooberongal people of the Dharug Nation, the Bidiagal people and the Gamaygal people, upon whose ancestral lands our university stands. We would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for these lands.

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Phd programs.

PhD programs

Degree structure

Scholarships and fees, further information.

Program Coordinator

What doctoral studies can I undertake at Crawford?

Crawford School has a vibrant community of PhD scholars from Australia, across the Asia Pacific region, and around the world. PhD scholars work on a diverse range of topics and across different disciplines, with a shared interest in understanding and addressing global policy challenges. PhD scholars play an essential role in the intellectual life of the School.

Within Crawford School students typically choose to work within one of the following research programs: economics; environmental studies and resource management; public policy or political science; and international relations.

Please note at present, Crawford School and NSC are not presently accepting applications for the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) program.

PhD Admission application due dates.

Applications are welcomed at any time during the year and, consistent with the practices of top global public policy schools, Crawford’s applications are assessed by its HDR Admissions Committee at various points during the year. Generally, meetings are held in March - May for semester 2 applications and in May - Nov for applications to start in the following year. In order to be assessed for an Australian Graduate Research Training Program (AGRTP) or ANU University Research scholarship , completed applications must be received by ANU as early as possible before the closing dates listed on these websites. Early submission enables more time to vet applications for completeness and improvements prior to the committee’s formal assessment.

Completed applications means the completed ANU application form and all supporting documentation. Vitally, applications must include written confirmation from a primary supervisor and a second supervisor that they will supervise you throughout your candidature. In addition, the application must include a letter of support from the primary supervisor detailing reasons why you should be admitted to the program. Both supervisors must be ANU academics from the same research field, and the primary supervisor must be from Crawford. For the National Security College (NSC), which is within Crawford, both supervisors must be with Crawford, with the primary supervisor being from the NSC.

To enable the completion of compulsory coursework, Crawford requires successful applicants to enrol in the summer term before 31 January for semester 1, or before 14 July for semester 2.

Admission to PhD Programs

Recommendations for course admission and PhD scholarships will be based on evaluation across multiple criteria, including the following:

Ability (e.g. past and potential academic performance)

Quality (e.g. proposal)

Capacity (e.g. fit with supervisors, program and school)

All successful applicants will be required to undertake compulsory coursework. One requirement is CRWF9000 Fostering Public Policy Research (0 units) , to be taken in the first year of PhD study.

More information about the admissions criteria and other required compulsory coursework are available through the links below.

Students studying a PhD program in Economics undertake part-time of full-time study that is comprised of Coursework (Part A) and Research (Part B). All PhD candidates must complete both parts of the doctoral program. Part A normally consists of two consecutive semesters of coursework; part B consists of research, participation in seminars and workshops, and submission of a thesis.

Students wishing to undertake a PhD in Economics whose first language is not English are required to have an overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a score of no less than 6.0 in each individual band.

» more information about the PhD program in Economics

Resources, Environment and Development

Students studying a PhD program in the Resources,Environmental and Development field will be required to undertake 12 units of coursework.

Students wishing to undertake a PhD in Environmental and Resource Management whose first language is not English are required to have an overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a score of no less than 6.0 in each individual band.

» more information about Environmental Studies and Resource Management

Policy and Governance

Students studying a PhD program in the Policy and Governance fields are required to complete the Postgraduate Training in Politics and Policy Program, which is jointly organised by the Crawford School and the School of Politics and International Relations in the College of Arts and Social Sciences. Required coursework: Research Design for Public Policy POGO9097 (6 units, Summer Semester) and Research Analysis and Statistics POGO9098 (6 units, Winter Semester), offered by Crawford. Students may also be asked to undertake additional courses if their supervisor considers it necessary.

Students must achieve an average grade of Distinction in order to commence dissertation research. The coursework requirements may be fulfilled through a set of equivalent ANU-wide courses.

Students wishing to undertake a PhD whose first language is not English are required to have an overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a score of no less than 6.0 in each individual band.

» more information about Public Policy or Political Science and International Relations

National Security College

Students entering the PhD program at the National Security College are required to complete required coursework: Research Design for Public Policy POGO9097 (6 units, Summer Semester)offered by Crawford. Students can seek approval from the HDR convenor and their supervisor to complete an alternative methods course (eg., in history), and may also be asked to undertake additional courses if their supervisor deems it necessary.

For the National Security College (NSC) , it is a requirement that you also have confirmation from two proposed supervisors, one from the National Security College and another from the National Security College or Crawford School, confirming that they will supervise you for the duration of your candidature.

» more information about National Security College

Crawford School Admission requirements

You must have completed an undergraduate or master’s degree in a discipline relevant to your area of proposed research. For undergraduate degrees, your result should be First Class Honours or Second Class Honours (First Division). If you have a master’s degree, rather than an honours degree, you will need to show that it had a research component. If you don’t have a master’s or honours degree you may be able to apply on the basis of professional work experience. You will also need to have academic referees to support your application.

All applicants must meet the University’s English Language Admission Requirements for Students.

One of the most important steps in making an expression of interest and before being approved to submit an online application, is to identify two potential supervisors at Crawford School. Your expression of interest or application will only be successful if there is at least two academics willing to supervise your research project.

Candidates interested in undertaking PhD study should:

Send an Expression of Interest to two academic staff members at Crawford School who you have identified as a possible supervisors for your PhD project.

Information in your Expression of Interest should include:

  • A proposed thesis topic (be as specific as you can) of relevance to your study topic;
  • A preliminary thesis proposal of 7 to 8 pages in length (see below);
  • The name of two potential supervisors at Crawford School in the same program and research field; - A copy of your academic transcript(s);
  • A CV including evidence of any work experience;
  • A sample of your academic writing (published or unpublished);
  • A statement on whether your ability to undertake PhD study is dependent on being awarded a scholarship; and
  • The time frame you envisage for commencing and completing your PhD study at ANU

Your preliminary thesis proposal should address the following questions:

  • What is your broad area of research?
  • What are your preliminary research questions?
  • What is the relevant literature? (provide a brief review)
  • What analytical framework or approach will you take?
  • What methods will you use?
  • What do you anticipate will be the contribution of your research?

All applicants should include a section in their Research proposal detailing the viability of their project in the context of COVID restrictions. This section should either (a) explain how the project is not dependent on travel and/or fieldwork and therefore feasible regardless of restrictions in these domains; or (b) provide a 12-month plan outlining how the project will proceed if the current restrictions on fieldwork and travel continue. Applicants should discuss the viability of their research project under COVID restrictions with their proposed supervisors prior to submitting the application.

After the potential academic supervisor receives your Expression of Interest, he or she may invite you to a meeting to discuss your proposal.

Once a supervisor has interviewed you and signed off on your proposal, you may then submit an online application. Your application will be sent to the Crawford HDR Admissions Committee for assessment at the next Crawford HDR Admissions meeting. Please contact the Crawford HDR Coordinator for more information and see PhD programs for application due dates.

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Costs associated with your study at ANU will depend on a number of things, including your study program and whether you’re a domestic or international student. Find out more about costs and fees associated with studying at ANU.

Scholarship information can be found here: http://www.anu.edu.au/students/scholarships-support

In order to be assessed for an International AGRTP scholarship, applications must be received by ANU complete with all required documentation including all referee reports by 31 August. Please submit applications at the latest one month in advance of 31 August.

In order to be assessed for a Domestic AGRTP scholarship, applications must be received by ANU complete with all required documentation including all referee reports by 31 October. Please submit applications at the latest one month in advance of 31 October.

Updated:   11 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:   Crawford Engagement / Page Contact:   CAP Web Team

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Business & Labour

phd unemployment australia

To PhD or not to PhD? Reviewing employability prospects for recent graduates

More people with PhDs graduate every year while fewer tenure-track positions become available

By Savannah Ribeiro — Published June 18, 2021

The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) released a report titled “Degrees of Success” in 2021, which revealed the main challenges that PhD students in Canada face when moving into the labour market. PhD candidates bring important skills and highly specialized knowledge to many sectors, but struggle to enter the workforce.

“Many PhDs face significant challenges entering the labour market after graduation. A lack of demand from employers, among other factors, is contributing to the underutilization of PhDs in the workforce,” the CCA report found. 

Lack of demand and earnings disparities for PhD graduates

The lack of demand for employees with PhDs is particularly true for sectors outside of academia , which have not increased their rate of employing PhDs. The private sector is most likely to employ graduates in engineering, and is least likely to employ those in the humanities.

Traditionally, individuals with PhDs aim to attain a tenure-track position at a university. However, this ideal is fast becoming outdated as fewer tenure-track positions become available. Simultaneously, more people graduate with PhDs every year. According to the CCA’s report, the number of tenure-stream professors in the past decade has stayed consistent, but the number of assistant professors has been declining. This means that there are fewer new positions for new faculty.

Business PhDs outearn all other disciplines; science and humanities PhDs earn the least. The CCA report asserts that lower paying roles such as sessional instructors and postdoctoral fellows are most common in the humanities and sciences disciplines during the first five years after graduation, which could contribute to the lower earnings potential for PhD graduates in those areas. 

Adjusting from academia to the workplace

Academic culture can be a hurdle too. Rates of depression and anxiety in PhDs are higher than the rates found in the general population, and “may be exacerbated or caused by the high demands and expectations of academic culture.” This is, in part, due to burnout for students in the sciences, although those in the social sciences and humanities are isolated due to independent research and writing.

An additional challenge is the ‘skills awareness gap,’ defined as the lack of recognition of an individual’s own newly gained skills and abilities. PhDs tend to be less aware of the skills they gained during their time in graduate school, and may also be unaware of career options that are not in the academic sector.

U of T’s School of Graduate Studies (SGS) created The 10,000 PhDs Project, an initiative which tracks the employment status of 9,583 PhDs who graduated from U of T between 2000 and 2015. Their research seems to support the skills awareness gap and found that the single largest employer of surveyed graduates is academia at 59.4 per cent, followed by the private sector at 21.8 per cent, the public sector at 11.6 per cent, the charitable sector at 3.5 per cent, and the “individual sector” at 3.6 per cent.

Other factors influencing employability

The CCA report, which bases its statistics on the 2016 census, finds that PhD unemployment in Canada is lower than the total unemployment rate by 2.6 per cent. Unemployment tends to be gendered, with women having higher unemployment rates than men in seven out of 10 disciplines. Underemployed people — which the CCA report uses the definition from Statistics Canada to describe as “those who are ‘part-time workers who would prefer to be working full time’ or those in roles where [their] skills are not fully used or when the job is considered substandard because of wages or other employment characteristics” — are more likely to be women.

A person’s native language appears to have an effect on unemployment rates as well; native English and French speakers have similar unemployment numbers, but unemployment rates are doubled for native speakers of any other language.

Unemployment rates for younger PhDs are higher when compared to older cohorts. For example, those between the ages of 25 to 34 have an unemployment rate of 7.1 per cent. The unemployment rate for people in the 35 to 44 years age group is 5.9 per cent. The data seems to suggest that recent PhD graduates do not have the employment opportunities available to them that earlier PhD graduates enjoyed at the same stage of their careers, but the reasons for this are unclear. 

Regarding salary and earnings, PhD holders generally see higher earnings when compared to bachelor’s or master’s degree holders. While women’s earnings are going up, they continue to lag behind men’s . Similarly, compared to international students, domestic students consistently earn more.

Tags: Academia , employment opportunities , PhD graduates , transition , workforce

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6 PhD positions available in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

6 PhD positions available in Nanoscience

IDEAL PhD is a doctoral fellowship programme led by IMDEA Nanociencia and co-funded by the  Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) COFUND programmes  to attract  12 talented predoctoral  researchers in two open calls to undertake a PhD research project in any of the programmes at the Institute:

  • P1 Nanotechnology for energy harvesting
  • P2 Quantum materials at the nanoscale
  • P3 Nanotechnology for healthcare
  • P4 Nanomagnetism for Information and Communication Technologies
  • P5 Ultrafast phenomena at the nanoscale
  • P6 Nanotechnology for critical raw materials and sustainability.

The IDEAL PhD programme aims to boost the careers of first stage researchers offering them an  innovative ,  truly interdisciplinary  and  intersectoral  training in nanoscience and nanotechnology,  in connection with international and industrial partners .

IMDEA Nanociencia offers a  highly competitive world–class research environment  within the UAM-CSIC Cantoblanco Campus of International Excellence (CEI) in Madrid, Spain. With a  diverse research staff  of >210 (18 nationalities; gender balance m/f, 58:42; ave. age 34.5) the fellows will be joining a  dynamic research environment . Doctoral candidates will receive a well-balanced research independence and mentoring from an experienced scientific and management team as well as access to infrastructure of the highest level for the pursuit of their projects.

Second call for applications now open

In this second call for applications, 6 MSCA PhD fellowships will be offered to outstanding doctoral candidates for the duration of 3.5 years (42 months) to undertake a PhD project in nanoscience and nanotechnology at IMDEA Nanociencia, in Madrid.

A full list of PhD projects is published on the  IDEAL PhD website . Applicants are able to freely choose a PhD project and associated supervisor that fits their individual research interest.

The IDEAL PhD fellows recruited in this call are expected to start their fellowship in early 2025.


Researchers of  any nationality  are eligible to apply to the IDEAL PhD fellowships. Applicants need to comply with the following eligibility criteria:

  • Mobility requirements:  Following the MSCA mobility rule, candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than 12 months in the last 3 years before the call deadline.
  • Degree certificates:  Candidates must have completed the studies that lead to an official university degree that gives access to doctoral studies.
  • Research experience:  Candidates must be doctoral candidates, i.e. not already in possession of a doctoral degree at the time of the call deadline. 
  • Language : applicants must have a B2-equivalent or higher level of English.

IDEAL PhD fellows will be hired on a full-time standard employment contract for the maximum duration of  3.5 years (42 months)  to undertake their PhD research project, complying with the Spanish legislation for the performance of doctoral studies.

Through their contracts, fellows will have  access to maternity/paternity, retirement, family benefits, and unemployment benefits.  Fellows and their families will have access to  public health care coverage and medical assistance.

Fellows will receivea  living allowance  (covering salaries, social security contributions, taxes and other costs included in the remuneration), a  mobility allowance  (mobility costs to take up the position) and a  family allowance  (to cover additional costs per dependent child after checking eligibility).

IMDEA Nanociencia will manage other  research and travel costs  available for the fellows to cover costs directly related with the development of the projects and necessary for the successful execution and travel costs associated with the researchers training and networking and to cover relevant expenses in secondments.

  • Average annual gross salary of € 24,600
  • Mobility allowance of € 2,400 (paid over the first 12 months, included in average salary).
  • Research, and travel costs up to € 900/month (managed by the institution)
  • Family Allowance of € 100 per month per child (up to 2 children)

Researchers with disabilities are supported and an  MSCA Special Needs Allowance  will be applied for to cover any additional costs that researchers with disabilities face due to the increased costs of their mobility.

IMDEA Nanociencia will provide  support to fellows during the integration and their stay  (visa requirements, general info, and family orientated support). Furthermore, fellows can also take advantage of the agreements in place with the  Cantoblanco Campus support network  to access on-campus accommodation, sports and cultural activities. Nursery and primary schools based on campus have priority for local workers.

Equal opportunities

The recruitment and selection process follows Open, Transparent and Merit based Recruitment (OTM-R) practices in accordance to the  European Charter & Code for Researchers (C&C) principles related to the Recruitment of Researchers.

We value and are fully committed to equality and diversity in the workplace. Our  Gender Equaliy Plan  and  Human Resources Strategy  is recognised by the European Commission with the ‘HR Excellence in Research’ seal. Applicants will not be discriminated against on the basis of gender, age, ethnicity, national or social origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, language, disability, political opinion and social or economic condition.

Application deadline: 23 August 2024 (17:00 CET)

phd unemployment australia

A PhD candidate is urging members of the public to log sightings of rakali so researchers can gather more information about the semi-aquatic animals.

A Charles Sturt University research paper has found nocturnal spotlight surveys are the best method for detecting them.

What's next?

Researchers hope to create better population records for the species.

Emmalie Sanders "instantly fell in love" with the rakali — also known as the Australian water rat.

Ms Sanders, a PhD candidate from Charles Sturt University, said the animal, known for its elusiveness, inspired her latest research.

A woman squatting and holding a rat-like creature in the forest

"I actually didn't know a thing about them until a few years ago," she said.

"They're quite adorable and shy, but very unique.

"Once I discovered more about them, I knew I had decided on my [research] topic."

Her latest paper, "Putting Rakali in the Spotlight", was proposed after Ms Sanders found very few population records of the species in recent years. 

"There weren't many [records] even though they can be found across Australia," she said.

"You can find [rakali] anywhere with a permanent water body — so the creeks, dams, even irrigation channels.

"I think limited records have to do with its elusive nature."

Different approaches

Ms Sander's research paper aimed to identify the most effective method for detecting the semi-aquatic animal.

Her investigation was conducted across the Yanco Creek system in southern New South Wales.

A woman in a river next to a floating ledge built for camera equipment

"They're such mysterious creatures, so I knew I had to use a few different approaches," she said.

"I decided on nocturnal spotlight surveys, camera, and live trapping."

Over two months, Ms Sanders performed 30-minute spotlight surveys along the Yanco Creek system every night and morning.

She said the spotlight method was by far the most effective.

"It makes sense because that's when they usually feed and socialise," she said.

"It was so fun to watch them at night; they're very mischievous."

Push for public to log sightings

Ms Sanders hoped her study would increase public interest in the rakali and inspire people to log their own sightings.

"Not everyone can get out in the water, in the middle of the night, with a torch to find [rakali]," she said.

"But people can log sightings of them on online databases.

"The more records we have, the better their future will be."

Not-for-profit iNaturalist Australia, which describes itself as an online biodiversity citizen science platform, was one of Ms Sanders's suggestions for recording sightings. 

Each record can be made with photography or sound recording and can be verified by a combination of users, naturalists, and artificial intelligence.

iNaturalist's recent records showed there were more than 1,200 submissions about the animal, made by more than 600 users.

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  • Academic Research
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Melbourne cityscape

Cheaper mortgages, tamed inflation and even higher home prices: how 29 forecasters see Australia’s economic recovery in  2024-25

phd unemployment australia

Visiting Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Disclosure statement

Peter Martin is Economics Editor of The Conversation.

Australian National University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

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Australia’s top economic forecasters expect the Reserve Bank to start cutting interest rates by March next year, taking 0.35 points of its cash rate by June.

If passed on in full, the cut would take $125 off the monthly cost of servicing a $600,000 variable-rate mortgage, with more to come.

The panel of 29 forecasters assembled by The Conversation expects a further cut of 0.3 points by the end of 2025. This would take the cash rate down from the current 4.35% to 3.75% and produce a total cut in monthly payments on a $600,000 mortgage of $335.

The forecasts were produced after last week’s news of a higher than expected monthly consumers price index .

Several of those surveyed revised up their predictions for interest rates in the year ahead, while continuing to predict cuts by mid next year.

Only one expects higher rates by mid next year. Only four expect no change.

Now in its sixth year, The Conversation survey draws on the expertise of leading forecasters in 22 Australian universities, think tanks and financial institutions – among them economic modellers, former Treasury and Reserve Bank officials and a former member of the Reserve Bank board.

Eight of the 29 expect the first cut to come this year, by either November or December.

One of them is Luci Ellis, who was until recently assistant governor (economic) at the Reserve Bank and is now at Westpac. She and her team are forecasting three interest rate cuts by the middle of next year, taking the cash rate from 4.35% to 3.6%.

Reserve Bank a ‘reluctant hiker’

Ellis says inflation isn’t falling fast enough for the bank to be confident of being able to cut before November. But after that, even if inflation isn’t completely back within the bank’s target band but is merely moving towards it, a “forward-looking” board would want to start easing interest rates.

Another forecaster, Su-Lin Ong of RBC Capital Markets, says in her view the bank should hike at its next board meeting in August after the release of figures likely to show inflation is still too high. But she says the bank is a “reluctant hiker” and keen to keep unemployment low.

Although several panellists expect the Reserve Bank to hike rates in the months ahead, almost all expect rates to be lower in a year’s time than they are today.

The panel expects inflation to be back within the Reserve Bank’s 2-3% target band by June next year, and to be close to it (3.3%) by the end of this year.

Twelve of the panel expect inflation to climb further when the official figures are released at the end of this month, but none expect it to climb further beyond that. And all expect inflation to be lower by the end of the financial year than it is today.

One, Percy Allan, a former head of the NSW Treasury, cautions that the tax cuts and other government support measures due to start this month run the risk of boosting spending and falling progress on inflation.

The panel expects wages growth to fall from 4% to 3.5% over the year ahead, contributing to downward pressure on inflation, but to remain higher than prices growth, producing gains in so-called real wages .

It expects wages growth to moderate further, to 3.2%, in 2025-26.

Consumer spending is expected to remain unusually weak, growing by only 1.7% in real terms over the next 12 months, up from 1.3% in the latest national accounts.

Mala Raghavan, from the University of Tasmania, said even though inflation was falling, previous price rises meant the prices of essentials remained high. AMP chief economist Shane Oliver expected the boost from the Stage 3 tax cuts to be offset by the depressing effect of a weaker labour market.

Unemployment to climb modestly

The panel expects Australia’s unemployment rate to climb steadily from its present historically low 4% to 4.4%.

Moodys Analytics economist Harry Murphy Cruise said although the increase wasn’t big, the effect on pay packets would be bigger. Employers were shaving hours and easing back on hiring rather than letting go of workers.

Panellists expect China’s economic growth to slip from 5.3% to 5% and US growth to slip from 2.9% to 2.4%.

Australia’s economic growth is expected to climb from the present very low 1.1% to 1.3% by the end of this year and to 2% by the end of next year. Although none of the panel are forecasting a recession, most of those who offered an opinion said if there was a recession, it would start this year when the economy was weak.

Some said we might later discover that we have already been in a recession if the very weak economic growth of 0.1% recorded in the March quarter is revised and turns negative when updated figures are released in September.

Home prices are expected to continue to climb notwithstanding economic weakness. Sydney prices are expected to increase a further 5% in the year ahead after climbing 7.4% in the year to May. Melbourne prices are expected to rise a further 2.8% after climbing 1.8% in the year to May.

Percy Allan said Sydney had fewer homes available than Melbourne, and Victoria’s decisions to extend land tax and boost rights for tenants had upset landlords, many of whom were offloading their holdings.

Home prices to climb further

Julie Toth, chief economist at property information firm PEXA, said rapid population growth was colliding with an ongoing decline in household size since COVID. At the same time, fewer new homes were being commissioned and long delays and high construction costs were also keeping supply tight.

The panel expects non-mining business investment to continue to climb in the year ahead, by 5.2%, down from 6.9%.

It expects the Australian share market to climb by a further 5.6%

Read the answers on PDF , download as XLS

The Conversation’s Economic Panel

Click on economist to see full profile.

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Fed's Cook: US data consistent with a soft landing

U.S. inflation should continue to fall without a significant further rise in the unemployment rate, Federal Reserve Governor Lisa Cook said on Wednesday.

In remarks prepared for delivery to an economics conference in Australia, Cook said she felt the evidence for a U.S. "soft landing" was lining up, with the Fed's preferred measure of inflation most recently at 2.6%, versus the central bank's 2% target, and the unemployment rate at 4.1%.

"My baseline forecast...is that inflation will continue to move toward target over time, without much further rise in unemployment," Cook said. While soft landings have been rare in economic history, she said, the fast decline in inflation without a substantial rise yet in the unemployment rate bodes well, and puts a premium on the Fed's getting the right timing on its decision to begin easing monetary policy.

Soft landings are "more likely when policy easing began with inflation already close to target and when there was a relatively firm growth backdrop," she said. "In the U.S., what I have seen so far appears to be consistent with a soft landing: Inflation has fallen significantly from its peak, and the labor market has gradually cooled but remains strong."

The Fed next meets on July 30-31, with investors expecting rate cuts to begin as soon as the following meeting in September.


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  6. Dr. Rashid Miandad (Briefing on Environmental science and PhD unemployment in Pakistan)


  1. Same degree but different outcomes: an analysis of labour market

    This paper used data on career destinations over the period 1999-2015 to study the labour market outcomes of native and foreign PhD graduates staying on in Australia as skilled migrants. Natives with an English-speaking background emerge as benefiting from positive employer 'discrimination' (a wage premium unrelated to observed characteristics such as gender, age, and previous work ...

  2. Fewer Australian doctoral graduates finding employment after PhD

    Short-term employment rates for Australian bachelor's degree graduates have "stabilised somewhat" despite the pandemic, but work prospects for people with new master's and doctoral qualifications have continued to decline.

  3. Labour Market Outcomes of Graduates in Economics in Australia

    A second study in this vein by Clements and Si ( 2019) examined the labour market prospects of PhD graduates from UWA. They estimate about 100 economics PhD students graduate annually from Australian universities, and the Go8 is the dominant producer with a market share of about 70 per cent.

  4. Young, educated and underemployed: are we building a nation of PhD

    Fourth, Canada and Australia are both struggling with a "new normal" of economic growth. This considerably increases the difficulty of creating high-quality jobs commensurate with an educated ...

  5. Graduate employment rates hit highest level in more than a decade

    Graduate employment rates hit highest level in more than a decade. Australian university graduates are securing full-time employment at a higher rate than at any point since 2009. This result comes as employment growth in the first six months of the Albanese Government is the strongest for a new Australian Government on record.

  6. Factors influencing the employment of Australian PhD graduates

    Therefore, the objective of this study is to identify the major factors that account for the initial full-time employment of Australian-trained PhD graduates. It draws on a national survey conducted in 2011 ( n = 2761) and 2012 ( n = 3181) of PhD graduates in Australia across all major disciplines four to six months after conferral of their degree.

  7. Career paths for PhD students

    They make the point that STEM PhD graduates on average have lower unemployment rates and higher salaries than almost every other category of university graduates, and that while only 2% of PhD graduates could realistically expect to reach professorial levels and enjoy the privilege of an uninterrupted academic career, the modern PhD is an excellent preparation for jobs in a broad range of ...

  8. Factors influencing the employment of Australian PhD graduates

    employment of Australian-trained PhD graduates. It draws on a national survey conducted in 2011 (n=2761) and 2012 (n=3181) of PhD graduates in Australia across all major disciplines conducted

  9. Factors influencing the employment of Australian PhD graduates

    The aim of this paper seeks to address this gap by modelling the initial employment outcomes of recent PhD graduates in Australia to explain what in fl uences job attain-

  10. Factors influencing the employment of Australian PhD graduates

    Past research has reached a consensus that PhD holders from prestigious HEIs enjoy better employment chances. Analysis of Australian Graduate Survey data indicated that PhD graduates from the ...

  11. Do you get paid to do a PhD?

    A PhD is a time-consuming gig. Planning, research and writing can easily fill the hours of your typical 9-5 job. But do PhD students get paid? Yes and no. Yes, you can secure a scholarship that provides a living stipend, which means you'll receive a fortnightly allowance. No, it isn't typically as much as you could expect from an entry-level, full-time salary straight out of your undergrad ...

  12. What Do Australian Economics PhDs Do? The UWA Experience

    We use a survey of recent economics PhD graduates from The University of Western Australia to report how long the degree took, what they publish from theses, what they do subsequently to graduation and how they evaluate their substantial investment in the PhD. The average student takes four years to complete, two publications emerge from the ...

  13. Australian Permanent Residency Pathways for PhD Graduates

    Australian Permanent Residency Pathways for PhD Graduates PhD Graduates are highly skilled in their fields and Australian States and Territories value the skilled employment prospects. The following pathways to permanent residency are available to PhD graduates.

  14. How to get employed with a PhD

    Unlike a traditional PhD, students from these programs gain a full body of published, peer reviewed work at the end. This tells universities and research institutes that you not only have the initiative to get published, but the knowledge of how to function in the industry.

  15. Education and Work, Australia

    Source: Education and Work, Australia, 2023, Table 20 Non-school qualifications Attained or studying for a non-school qualification In 2023, of people aged 15-74 years: 63% had attained a non-school qualification (certificate, diploma, or degree), the same proportion as for 2022 11% were currently studying for a non-school qualification.

  16. Study in Australia: the ultimate guide for a PhD in 2024

    Everything an international student needs to study a PhD in Australia. Finding a university, how to apply, tuition fees, living costs and more.

  17. The Systemic PhD Unemployment Crisis

    Join Isaiah as he shares about unemployment and the professional values important for PhDs to get hired into top industry positions

  18. Participation, Job Search and Mobility, Australia, February 2024

    Labour participation potential, underemployment and job attachment, job search experience, labour mobility, hours worked, industry and occupation.

  19. Factors influencing the employment of Australian PhD graduates

    Therefore, the objective of this study is to identify the major factors that account for the initial full-time employment of Australian-trained PhD graduates. It draws on a national survey conducted in 2011 (n = 2761) and 2012 (n = 3181) of PhD graduates in Australia across all major disciplines four to six months after conferral of their degree.

  20. International joint PhD opportunities

    Learn about undertaking an international PhD opportunity at the University of Melbourne and browse projects currently accepting candidates.

  21. PhD by Distance

    The study expectations of PhD by distance mode students are the same as on-campus students. This means that you will: need to meet the same admissions requirements, including English-language proficiency. be supported by a panel of supervisors. complete any mandatory coursework.

  22. 'Employment crisis' for new Ph.D.s is an illusion

    The nonexistent jobs crisis is a reminder of the dangers of taking government data at face value and using them for unintended purposes. The SED—the survey that prompted the press coverage—was never designed to measure the employment status of new graduates, says Mark Fiegener, a project officer at NSF's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

  23. PhD programs

    PhD scholars play an essential role in the intellectual life of the School. Within Crawford School students typically choose to work within one of the following research programs: economics; environmental studies and resource management; public policy or political science; and international relations. Please note at present, Crawford School and ...

  24. To PhD or not to PhD? Reviewing employability prospects for recent

    Unemployment rates for younger PhDs are higher when compared to older cohorts. For example, those between the ages of 25 to 34 have an unemployment rate of 7.1 per cent. The unemployment rate for people in the 35 to 44 years age group is 5.9 per cent. The data seems to suggest that recent PhD graduates do not have the employment opportunities ...

  25. 6 PhD positions available in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

    Australia & New Zealand News; 6 PhD positions available in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology; NEWS 9 Jul 2024 News. ... Through their contracts, fellows will have access to maternity/paternity, retirement, family benefits, and unemployment benefits. Fellows and their families will have access to public health care coverage and medical assistance.

  26. Cook says Fed would respond if unemployment starts to rise more quickly

    With a 4.1% unemployment rate "the labor market is still robust," Cook said at an event in Australia. "But we are very attentive to what is happening with the unemployment rate ... The situation could change very quickly and we would be responsive."

  27. Research into elusive rakali, or Australian water rat, prompts call for

    A PhD candidate urges citizen scientists to log sightings of the "mysterious", semi-aquatic animals — also known as water rats — so researchers can gather more information about its population.

  28. Cook says Fed would respond if unemployment starts to ...

    The Federal Reserve is closely watching changes in the unemployment rate and would respond if it starts a quick climb, Fed Governor Lisa Cook said on Wednesday.With a 4.1% unemployment rate "the labor market is still robust," Cook said at an event in Australia. "But we are very attentive to what is…

  29. Cheaper mortgages, tamed inflation and even higher home prices: how 29

    Cheaper mortgages, tamed inflation and even higher home prices: how 29 forecasters see Australia's economic recovery in 2024-25

  30. Fed's Cook: US data consistent with a soft landing

    In remarks prepared for delivery to an economics conference in Australia, Cook said she felt the evidence for a U.S. "soft landing" was lining up, with the Fed's preferred measure of inflation most recently at 2.6%, versus the central bank's 2% target, and the unemployment rate at 4.1%.