Social workers among the highest earners at graduation

This month’s analysis reveals that graduates from courses in one of the most accessible fields of study are also amongst the best paid.

Social work is a highly regulated profession that has been in existence for over 100 years. Social workers have supported Australians through every major crisis — from world wars, bushfires, floods, droughts and economic recessions to global pandemics. Social workers are employed in a wide range of government, non-government and private practice settings providing social, emotional and practical supports.

Major fields of practice include, but are not limited to:

  • aged care
  • crisis recovery and response services
  • child protection and abuse
  • disability
  • drug and alcohol
  • family violence and support
  • health and mental health
  • housing and homelessness
  • refugees and people seeking asylum
  • social support services.

On average, courses in social work require an ATAR of 71, placing them among the lowest ATAR courses in the country. However, social work graduates have a median starting salary of $65,400, which ranks them third behind two of the toughest fields to get into: medicine and dentistry. These salary figures reflect the experience of graduates employed full-time approximately three months post-graduation.

Social work graduates from Edith Cowan University are among the best paid of their cohort with a median starting salary of $70,000 — well above average, and close to the average for medicine grads, who earn a median starting salary of $72,0000.

At graduation, social workers are better paid than graduates from law, accounting or IT. Not only are these fields typically associated with a high salary, these courses require a higher ATAR.

Ross White, Good Education Media

Graduates in other fields, such as law, may enjoy greater salary growth over time than social workers. However, in addition to a strong starting salary, The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business predicts ‘very strong growth’ for social work in the next five years.

We spoke to Simon Kuut of the Australian Association of Social Workers about what is driving demand for social work graduates.

“Every day, all around Australia social workers are working with people to improve their wellbeing and support them in meeting their full potential, he says. “Social workers are driven by a belief that in order to improve the situations that someone may be experiencing, we need to adopt a whole-of-person approach.

“Social workers are distinct from many other professional groups as they appreciate the diverse and complex set of factors that contribute to someone’s wellbeing. Most of all social workers work in partnership and are driven by a collaborative approach to practice. This is an explicit recognition that people are experts of their own lives and it is through partnership that we can address the challenges that they face.”

Click here to access our analysis of ATARs for all fields of study, Social Work included, and be sure to check out The Good Universities Guide’s graduate employment ratings.


Salary and employment data have been sourced from pooled results of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Graduate Outcomes Survey.

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