The complete guide for graduates moving to Melbourne

Moving to Melbourne as a graduate offers exciting opportunities and a unique lifestyle. Make a smooth transition with our comprehensive guide for grads.
Jaymes Carr
Jaymes Carr
Team GradAustralia
Save 

For seven straight years, from 2011 to 2017, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Survey has identified Melbourne, a city of 4,900,000 in the south-eastern state of Victoria, as the most liveable city in the world. The survey takes into account stability, healthcare, culture and environment, entertainment, tourism, sport, education and infrastructure—all of which are outstanding in Victoria’s capital.

Melbourne is one of the fifteen Global Financial Centres. The city is often informally referred to as the ‘culture capital’ of Australia in recognition of its various achievements: Melbourne was the site of the world’s first ever feature film (The Story of the Ned Kelly Gang) and the birthplace of Australian impressionism, Australian contemporary dance, and Australian film. Today, Melbourne remains a powerful force in global arts, finance, and culture, and is also well-known for its street art, local music scene, and cafe culture.

Pros and cons of living in Melbourne

Pros

Cafes for days

It’s basically impossible to find a bad cup of coffee in Melbourne, so it’s no surprise that several international publications have named it the cafe capital of the world. With more than 1,600 cafes and restaurants, and a new one opening every week, you’ll never need to go far in Melbourne for a terrific brunch or perfect espresso.

Melbourne hosts a range of major sporting events

Since hosting the Olympics in 1956, Melbourne has fiercely defended its reputation as the sporting capital of Australia. Today, it hosts several major international sporting events each year, including the Australian Open (a Grand Slam tennis tournament), the Melbourne Cup (the world’s richest two-mile horse race), the Australian Grand Prix (Formula One), and the Australian Masters (a major golf competition). Melbourne is also considered the Australian home of cricket and AFL, hosting both the annual AFL Grand Final and numerous cricket competitions.

There’s always plenty to do

As the cultural capital of Australia, and a city with a bustling social scene, there’s never any shortage of things to do in Melbourne. Whether you’d like to enjoy a performance by a world-class local institution, like the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, or get involved with an annual event (for example, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival or the Melbourne Marathon), you won’t find it too hard to fill your schedule with exciting things to do.   

Extensive public transport

With 209 suburban train stations, numerous bus services, and the world’s largest tram network, the public transport system in Melbourne provides an affordable alternative to commuting via car within the CBD and surrounding suburbs. Of course, it’s not without problems, such as overcrowding on some lines due to the rapid growth of Melbourne’s population. However, recent and ongoing infrastructure projects, such as the 2018 completion of the Mernda rail extension promise to increase capacity and connect new areas of Melbourne to the public transport network.

Cons

The weather is great (until it’s freezing cold, or raining, or above 40°C)  

The climate of Melbourne is notoriously changeable (hence the classic Crowded House song ‘Four Seasons in One Day’). While winters are relatively mild (snow is rare and temperatures range from seven to fifteen degrees celsius), sudden cold fronts can cause heavy rain, sudden temperature drops, and severe weather, such as thunderstorms and hail. Summer averages a maximum temperature of 25°C but is punctuated by days of intense heat, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40°C.  

High cost of living

In the 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Melbourne ranked as the 58th most expensive city in the world. Not so bad, right? However, if you focus on specific expense categories, a clearer picture emerges of why Melbourne can be such a pricey place to live. For example, the 2018 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey found that, when it comes to accommodation, Melbourne is the fifth most expensive city in the world.

Melbourne is remote (from the rest of the world)

If you’re in London, you can travel to Paris in about two and a half hours. By comparison, if you’re in Melbourne, a two and a half hour trip will take you to Sydney, Auckland, or other domestic locations. Still determined to visit Paris? Get comfortable: you’ll be travelling for at least 23 hours, and as many as 42. There’s no getting around it—as great as Melbourne is, the city is also remote from the rest of the world, which can be a bit of a downer if you’re an avid traveller.

If you drive, you will eventually find yourself shouting at a tram that can’t hear you

Melbourne has the world’s most extensive tram network. However, 74% of Melbourne’s commuters drive to their primary occupation, while 35% of commuters in the city centre walk to work. At its best, the city’s transportation infrastructure works well, and everybody can get to work on time. At its worst… well, if you have the experience of being stuck behind a tram or nearly flattened by one, you’ll understand why seasoned Melbournians eventually develop unflappable patience and a sixth sense for approaching vehicles.  

You will be expected to love AFL

If you’re planning to move to Melbourne and you don’t know what AFL is, that’s okay: until, of course, you realise that everybody is talking about it all the time.  As many as four AFL matches are played each week in Melbourne, drawing around 40,000 spectators each. Some of the major teams include Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, and Western Bulldogs.

Rent and cost of living

In 2018, the Mercer Cost of Living Survey, which takes into account some 200 international expatriate destinations, ranked Melbourne as the 58th most expensive city in the world overall. Of course, the ranking shifts when you focus on specific expense categories: then you discover that Melbourne has some of the world’s most expensive rental accommodation, but comparatively affordable local meat and fresh produce.

How much is rent in Melbourne?

In March 2018, the median rent for metropolitan Melbourne rose to $420 overall, with the city’s most expensive area being inner Melbourne (median rent of $479 per week) and its most affordable being southeastern Melbourne (median rent of $370 per week). In metropolitan Melbourne, the median price for a one-bedroom flat was $360 per week, while the median price of a four-bedroom house was $450 per week. Houses tend to be the dominant rental property type in outer metropolitan areas, whereas flats are more prevalent in areas closer to the centre of Melbourne.

Given the ongoing fluctuations in the Melbourne rental market, it’s a good idea to consult up-to-date information when considering your own move. The best place to start is with the Victorian state government’s Department of Health and Human Services, which publishes a quarterly rental report covering metropolitan and regional areas.

How much will I spend on everyday purchases in Melbourne?

According to the website Expatistan, which aggregates average prices in world cities, a basic lunch in Melbourne will set you back AU$17; a dozen eggs is $6, two litres of Coca-Cola is $3.20, two movie tickets is $38, a one-month gym membership in the CBD is $77, and a month of public transport tickets is around $143. You can compare the price of everyday items (according to the 2018 Mercer survey) in Melbourne, the USA, and China by following the links on this Victorian government website.

Where in Melbourne should I live?

From the street art and general bohemianism of Fitzroy and Carlton to the $20 million mansions of Toorak, Melbourne offers newcomers a range of options when it comes to their home address. You can learn more about the suburbs of the Melbourne CBD on this page maintained by the City of Melbourne council.

For a broader interactive map of metropolitan Melbourne, visit the Victorian government’s ‘Live in Melbourne’ website here (if you would like to maintain a strong connection to your ethnic community, you can even see where in Melbourne has the highest concentration of, say, Greek, French, or Sri Lankan migrants). Finally, if you’re still stumped, this quiz claims to be able to match you with a Melbourne suburb.

Tips for choosing a place to live in Melbourne

Ultimately, the Melbourne suburb that suits you best will reflect your preferences, social and professional obligations, and financial resources. There is no quick way to find your perfect match, so we recommend considering your preferences before using the online resources in the next section to do some further research (this will also give you a more reliable sense of prices in your target area).

We recognise, of course, that being able to choose a suburb based entirely on personal preferences is a luxury, especially in Melbourne, so the following questions are intended to provide some clarity even when navigating the inevitable compromises of renting life:

  1. Where is the suburb? (It’s best not to confuse South Bank with South Yarra, or Flemington with Kensington, or Ferny Creek with Ferntree Gully. If you’re unsure where in Melbourne it is, use this tool to find out.)
  2. How valuable to you are space and privacy?
  3. Do you prefer city, suburban, or rural environments?
  4. Do you own a car? If not, is there reliable public transport (or safe cycleways)?
  5. How will your choice of suburb affect commuting times?
  6. Is it important for you to be near good restaurants? Fresh food markets? Beaches?
  7. What’s your budget?
  8. Where do you work?
  9. How long do you plan to live in your next house?
  10. Do you need a big outdoor area?
  11. Do you enjoy solitude or would you prefer to be nearer to the nightlife?
  12. Is it important for you to live somewhere with a strong sense of local community?
  13. Would you like to live close to a shopping centre? A local library? A swimming pool? A train station?
  14. Have you considered how you might build (or maintain) social connections when you move to Melbourne? Will the suburb affect this?
  15. Can you learn more about the suburb to determine whether or not you’d be a good cultural fit for the area?
  16. What’s the local arts and culture scene like? Is this very important to you?
  17. Are there any local parks, reserves, or other open spaces?
  18. What’s the local crime rate like?
  19. Will you have adequate broadband and mobile coverage?
  20. How does your suburb compare to other suburbs? (NB: This can be one of the hardest questions to answer when you’re new to an area, so, if you’re uncertain, we recommend PwC’s ‘CityPulse’ profile of Melbourne, which ranks each suburb in terms of its amenability to working, living, and playing.)  

How do I find flats, apartments, or a room in a sharehouse? What about flatmates?

There are a variety of tools that you can use to look for accommodation and flatmates in Melbourne, some of which are free with basic features (like Gumtree) and others of which charge a fee. Some of the more popular options include:

If you’re on Facebook, it can also be helpful to check whether or not there are any groups for individuals looking to rent or share in different regions of Melbourne.

The job market for graduates in Melbourne

Major industries: Professional services, healthcare, education and training, finance
Smaller industries: Arts and recreation, retail trade, public administration

According to the federal government’s Department of Jobs and Small Businesses, the labour market in Victoria increased by 100,200 people in the year leading up to January 2018. In fact, over the past five years, Victoria has added more jobs than any other state. Melbourne itself boasts the most highly educated workforce in Victoria (37% of employees have a Bachelor degree), and employment in the capital is expected to grow by 9.8% over the five years to May 2022.

The top five industries in Melbourne are professional, scientific, and technical services; financial and insurance services; accommodation and food services; healthcare and social assistance; and public administration and safety. Melbourne is also an emerging hub for creative industries, digital technologies, and renewable energy technologies.   

When it comes to graduates specifically, the outlook is increasingly positive across the nation. In the 2017/2018 GradAustralia Top 100 report—which is based on a national survey, with roughly one-quarter of respondents coming from Victoria—about 60% of students said that they expected it to take more than three months to find an entry-level job after graduating.

This, it turns out, is a pretty accurate estimate: the most recent Graduate Outcomes Survey (published by the Social Research Centre) found that, in 2017, ‘71.8 percent of undergraduates were in full-time employment four months after completing their degree’.  

Key statistic: The government anticipates that, by May 2022, there will be more jobs in Victoria for graduates in healthcare, professional, scientific, and technical services, construction, and education and training (these industries will account for 70% of anticipated growth). There will be fewer jobs in manufacturing, utilities, and agriculture, forestry, and fishing.

(Labour Market Information Portal, Employment Projections, Outlook to May 2022).

What do graduates in Melbourne earn?

Melbourne offers professional graduates relatively high average salaries that are competitive both globally and in comparison to other Australian capital cities. The following average salaries are taken from the 2018 Hays Salary Guide, which itself draws on a survey of 3,000 businesses in Australia and New Zealand that together employ some 2.3 million people. We’ve included a representative sample of salaries for popular graduate occupations: if yours isn’t listed, consult the GradAustralia website for more information. Note that the average salaries below exclude superannuation.

Lifestyle in Melbourne

Shopping in Melbourne

Shopping in Melbourne is an exciting experience, whether you’re looking for fashion from international designer brands, accessories from standout local businesses like Dinosaur Designs, or simply want to get lost wandering through Australia's largest shopping centre (Chadstone Shopping Centre, or ‘Chaddy’ as the locals call it). Melbourne is particularly well-known for its boutique laneway shopping experiences, which offer jewellery, vintage clothes, books, local produce, and more. For one of Melbourne’s most iconic shopping experiences, be sure to visit the Queen Victoria Market, the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere.

Arts and culture in Melbourne

Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia, offering major events and festivals, as well as various opportunities to immerse yourself in drama, musicals, comedy, music, art, architecture, literature, film and television. Some of Melbourne’s best-known festivals include Moomba (Australia’s largest free community festival), the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Melbourne is also home to Australia's oldest and most-visited public art museum, the National Gallery of Victoria, and has been voted the world’s top destination for enjoying street art. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a concert, Melbourne has some 460 live music venues and has produced countless local talents who have achieved international recognition, such as Nick Cave, Gotye, Flea (from the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Courtney Barnett, and more.

Nightlife in Melbourne

Whether you want to have dinner at a bustling market, share a drink with friends in a hidden bar, or club until the sun comes up, Melbourne’s nightlife, and Melbourne's 24-hour public transport system, have got you covered. Your options range from an internationally acclaimed bookstore that stays open until 11pm to Melbourne’s famous rooftop bars like (the aptly titled) Rooftop Bar and Good Heavens, where you can enjoy a cocktail with a full view of the city. If you’re still not sure how best to spend an evening, websites like What’s On Melbourne and Visit Victoria have got you covered: check them out before you make your weekend plans.  

Food in Melbourne

In 2017, Melbourne joined London and New York as the third capital city to host the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards’ since the annual event launched in 2002. The organisers were wooed by Melbourne’s world-standard foodie culture, which encompasses thousands of cafes, internationally recognised restaurants (such as Maha and Attica), and countless laneway eateries offering a multicultural smorgasbord of dining options. Whatever your budget, and whatever your culinary preferences, you’re sure to find, in Melbourne, something to satisfy your inner foodie (or turn you into one). Local favourites include Chin Chin, MoVida, Rice Paper Scissors, and Stalactites (which, as its name suggests, also has one of the coolest ceilings in Melbourne).

Finding out what’s on in Melbourne

If you’d like a sense of everything that’s happening in Melbourne, then you’re best bet is to check a website that aggregates events and venue reviews, such as Concrete Playground, Time Out Melbourne, or What’s On Melbourne. These offer a great way to learn not only about events in the CBD, but also about worthwhile day trips, such as a drive to Healesville or a hike through the Dandenong Ranges. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to check the events pages of major venues in Melbourne, and keep an eye out for events that might interest you, such as the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, a local AFL match, or the Melbourne Marathon.

Meeting people in Melbourne

Straight up: the best way to meet people in Melbourne (or anywhere for that matter) is to get a really, really cute dog and just walk around with it. If that’s not possible, then here are some other things you can try:

Getting around Melbourne

One day, you may remember a time when you had no idea what a myki even was, or how to acquire, top up, or use one. This will all change if you move to Melbourne: for if you intend to use the city’s tram system (the largest in the world), its buses, or its trains, you’ll need a myki of your own, which will allow you tap on or off public transport and take advantage of certain benefits.

Public transport in Melbourne is divided into two zones, with the lowest possible fare calculated based on the zones you’ve travelled to and from between tapping on and off. There are free trams in the city centre, and also regional services to destinations like Ballarat, Bendigo, and Geelong. Wherever you’re going, if you intend to use public transport, you can plan your journey using the Public Transport Victoria app for iOS and Android.

If you’d prefer to cycle, then you’re in for a treat: Melbourne is a great city for cyclists, with about 135km of on-road and off-road cycle paths, as well as a council-run bike share system. You can download cycling maps here.

Finally, for those journeys that must be made in a car, Melbourne city is very accommodating (though the centre of the CBD is definitely designed to encourage public transport or walking instead). For an overview of road and traffic information in Melbourne, visit the City of Melbourne website here.

Don’t forget!

We’ve covered the big things that you’ll want to know before moving to Melbourne, but it’s important to remember the little things too. Here’s a quick list of resources that will help you make sure that you’ve covered everything.

Legal resources

After moving to Melbourne, you’ll need to change your enrolment address and also, if necessary, update your driver’s license through Vic Roads. If you move into shared or rented accommodation, it’s advisable that you lodge your bond with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority. If you require legal advice, and you’re under the age of 25, you can access free support through Youthlaw, which is located on Flinders Street. Alternatively, you can (at any age) contact Victoria Legal Aid.

Health resources

Moving cities can be hard—you’ll have to adapt to a new job, new accommodation, and a new environment, all while building a social network far from the one you left behind. If you require support through the transition, or as a result of other life events, don’t hesitate to avail yourself of free (or affordable) resources dedicated to mental health. These include Lifeline, headspace, and various local organisations.

There are various clinics with bulk-billing psychologists, or you can reach out to Orygen, a Melbourne-based organisation that focuses on youth mental health. For other health services, including a directory of hospitals and clinics, visit the City of Melbourne’s health services page.

Financial resources

Need help opening a new bank account? Managing your superannuation? Making a budget? Check out this list of free financial literacy courses, access free advice via the national debt helpline, or use the ASIC Money Smart tool to find a trusted financial counsellor in your area. You can also access free financial counselling through the Salvation Army Melbourne Counselling Service or access emergency financial relief through the Victorian Department of Human Services or Community Information and Support Victoria.

Other useful resources

As Australia’s culture capital, you’re bound to find that Melbourne is one of Australia’s most exciting cities to live in. If you’re still deciding between cities, read our complete guide for graduates moving to Sydney.