Career

How Much Can You Expect To Earn At Your Peak?

Some people undertake a university degree because they love learning, others because they believe they’ll earn big bucks. Some do it to reach their career goals, and some do it because they don’t really know what else to do with themselves after finishing high school. On average, university graduates earn around $1 million more in their lifetimes than people who haven’t finished year 12.

The truth is, the amount of money you earn varies wildly depending on what you study, and what career path you follow. We can all accept that an arts graduate (who doesn’t pursue post-grad education) is generally going to make less than somebody who has studied to become a neurosurgeon.

But how much can you actually expect to make from your degree? While there are no hard and fast numbers — much depends on what you do after university — it can be useful to learn a ballpark figure for your annual salary once you’ve reached the absolute zenith of your career.

Medical Degree with Surgical Training

Surgeons require a plethora of experience behind them – both on-the-job and at university — before they pick up a scalpel, so it’s no surprise that the average starting salary for this occupation sits at around $125,000. And, as the highest-paid occupation in Australia, surgeons can take home up to $422,000 a year at their peak.

Other medical specialists can also expect to bring in the bucks as well — senior anaesthetists make on average $319,000 each year, while the $186,000 pay packets earned by psychiatrists also aren’t anything to sniff at.

Bachelor of Social Work

While starting salaries for those who have studied social work are liveable — around $66,000 a year — social workers at their zenith are doing pretty well for themselves. A grade eight social worker can make up to $145,000 each year.

Bachelor of Accountancy

If the idea of sitting at a desk tallying up numbers all day isn’t your dream job, the salary of an accountant could be an unexpected draw. Some accountants (working for corporations) make up to $170,000 a year once they begin to nab roles such as Chief Financial Officer (though salaries for roles such as these can skyrocket even higher).

Basic starting salaries sit around $40,000 per annum. Time to get a-counting.

Bachelor of Visual Arts

There are a whole host of roles you can fill with a Bachelor of Visual Arts — you could be a graphic designer, an art teacher (with a teaching certification under your belt), or even a gallery curator.

While one of Australia’s top gallery curators is pulling in around $475,000 a year, an art teacher can expect to be paid up to $104,000 each year at their peak, with salaries rising for becoming head teacher or principal.

Bachelor of Computer Science

You just need to look at Mark Zuckerberg to know that being a computer geek can bring in big bucks. Sure, you might not dream up the next Facebook, but you can still expect to make a decent living.

Senior IT professionals can make around $150,000 each year — and that can rise if you take your skills to games development, business analysis and even consultancy.

Bachelor of Dentistry

… or Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Bachelor of Dental Science, or Bachelor of Oral Health in Dental Science. Becoming a dentist can really mean big earnings — up to $150,000 a year at your peak. You’ll also earn more than almost any other occupation straight out of uni — up to $80,000 a year.

Bachelor of Creative Writing

The struggling author cliche isn’t a myth — in fact, the majority of people who write books make only around $12,900 a year from this job. To supplement their income, they take on teaching and editorial work, totalling less than $50,000.

But, if you hit the big time, you really hit the big time — the world’s highest paid author last year, James Patterson, brought in more than $121 million. If only we could dream up the next Harry Potter


Che-Marie is a London-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Australian Gourmet Traveller, Collective Hub and Virgin Australia Voyeur among others. Follow her travels on Instagram @chemariet