Graduate Jobs in Canberra (ACT)

Find the best Graduate Jobs in Canberra (ACT)

Graduate Jobs in Canberra (ACT) overview

Graduate Jobs in Canberra

Australia’s capital city might be small, but it’s also a leader in providing in-demand job opportunities for graduates. Thousands of people move to Canberra every year, many of them jobseekers who have just completed their studies. Thanks to this influx of young people, the median age of Canberra residents is lower than the rest of the country.

Canberra is a meticulously planned city, resulting in suburbs connected by strategic roads and beautiful parklands. Commuting times are generally within 20 minutes or less, and there are over 2,400 km of dedicated bicycle trails and lanes.

Canberra is able to offer a range of job opportunities unavailable anywhere else due to its position as the seat of government, but they can be difficult to secure. Positions in the Australian Public Service graduate programs, for example, are highly competitive. Bigger departments can receive as many as 2,000 applicants for only 30 graduate positions. While there are fewer opportunities in terms of numbers, the jobs that do exist are often lucrative and ideal for kick-starting a graduate career.

Graduate jobs in Canberra

Canberra hosts 1.9% of all graduate employment opportunities in Australia, but these jobs create 2.22% of income earned in the country due to the higher salaries on offer than the opportunities available in other parts of Australia. 3.6% of all Australian graduates looking for work will find it in the ACT. Canberra’s main sectors are public administration and safety, with the head of most Australian Public Service agencies located in the city, as well as a number of Australian Defence Force institutions.

Number of employing businesses in Canberra

Figure 1: Number of employing businesses in Canberra vs other Australian cities

What is the job market outlook for graduate jobs in Canberra?

Graduate jobs in Canberra employment status

Figure 2: Employment status of graduates with bachelor degrees in Canberra

91% of graduates who hold a bachelor-level degree have found employment in Canberra, 73% of all graduates have found full-time work. However, it’s worth taking into consideration that the low number of unemployed graduates could be due to many job-seekers coming from another area and only moving to Canberra once employment is secured.

Five-year outlook

Annual growth rates in Canberra

Figure 3: Canberra annual growth rates vs other cities in Australia

Canberra’s growth rate is fairly low when compared to other major cities in Australia. At 6.1%, only Hobart and Adelaide have a lower growth rate and Canberra is predicted to grow at a speed well below the national average of 8.3%. Utilities and mining have experienced a negative growth rate, offsetting the growth in the accommodation and food service industries, as well as healthcare and social assistance.

Growth rate by industry in Canberra

Figure 4: Annual growth rate across industries in Canberra

Graduate unemployment rates in Canberra

Unemployment rates by city in Canberra

Figure 5: Unemployment rates in Canberra vs other cities in Australia

Canberra has a slightly lower unemployment rate for both youth and the general population than the Australian average. However, the rate of graduate unemployment is the lowest in the country, well below the national average of 11.3%. Once again, the low rate of unemployment is probably largely due to the lower numbers of people moving to Canberra without having first secured a position.  

Graduate jobs in Canberra - unemployment

Figure 6: Graduate unemployment rates in ACT vs other locations in Australia

What are the typical roles for graduates in Canberra?

GradAustralia surveyed graduates, and the five most common job titles in Canberra are:

  • Policy officer
  • Patent examiner
  • Consultant
  • Graduate officer
  • Performance Analyst

The Australian government and the ACT government are the biggest graduate employers in the city, taking graduates from a range of disciplines,  including management, intelligence, environmental management, international relations, law, business, engineering, science and HR.

What salary should I expect for graduate jobs in Canberra?

Median and mean employee income in Canberra

Canberra has the highest median and mean employee incomes in Australia, significantly higher than the Australian mean of $58,011 and median of $46,999. Canberra employees earn a median of $62,618, with a mean income of $68,084. The mean income is 8.7% higher than the median earnings, suggesting that graduate jobs in Canberra offer higher wages in general, but that there are a number of positions available with a high earning potential.

Employee mean incomes by city Canberra

Figure 7: Median and mean employee income in Canberra compared with other capital cities

Median graduate starting salaries

Graduate jobs in Canberra - median salary

Figure 8: ACT median graduate starting salary vs other states/territories

Graduates in the ACT earn $4,000 more per year than the national average, with only graduates who secure positions in the Northern Territory earning more on average. In Canberra itself, starting salaries for graduates can be significantly higher. The disciplines that earn the most are law and the sciences, while health and medical sciences start out on a lower salary. That being said, the average salary for someone entering the health and medical science industry in Canberra is still significantly higher than the median graduate starting salary figures for the ACT.

Graduate jobs in Canberra - salary by discipline

Figure 9: Average graduate starting salary by discipline in Canberra

What working hours should I expect in Canberra?

Graduate jobs in Canberra - average work hours

Figure 10: Average hours worked per week by graduates in Canberra

While just under 80% of graduates in Canberra say they work 40 or fewer hours per week, there are a number of people who work far more. A further 21% work more than 40 hours, with a small percentage of graduates stating they average between 70-80 hours a week. While these positions might be in the minority, it’s worth considering that the competitiveness of many graduate jobs in Canberra, as well as the higher salaries, might call for an increased work week when compared to other major Australian cities. In general graduate positions in Canberra actually offer a shorter average number of working hours when compared to many locations around the country, one of the advantages of working for the government.

Graduate jobs in Canberra - average work hours by city

Figure 11: Average work hours per week for graduates in Canberra compared with other cities

Job satisfaction for graduates in Canberra

When asked to rate their job satisfaction out of 10, the average graduate working in Canberra scored their satisfaction at 8.5. That makes Canberra third last out of all the Australian major cities, although Canberra graduates are level with the national average for job satisfaction..

Graduate jobs in Canberra - job satisfaction

Figure 12: Average job satisfaction score in Canberra vs other cities


Graduate jobs in Canberra - diversity

Figure 13: Average diversity score in Canberra vs other cities

In GradAustralia's survey of Australian graduates, Canberra rated well for diversity, ranking in the top half of Australian cities and just slightly higher than the national average.  

Gender diversity

The ACT is the only state or territory in Australia where, on average, females are likely to start on a higher wage than their male counterparts. A female graduate in the ACT has an average starting salary of around $59,000, which is $6,000 more than the national average for female graduates. At $56,000, male graduates in the ACT will earn only $1,000 more than the average starting wage for male graduates across Australia. Only the Northern Territory pays female graduates a higher average starting salary, whereas men are likely to earn more on average if they start a job in the Northern Territory or Western Australia.

Salaries in Canberra - gender comparison

Figure 14: Median graduate starting salary for males and females in ACT vs other states

Where to find graduate jobs in Canberra

Positions in the lucrative Australian Public Service graduate programs in Canberra are highly competitive. The process of applying takes around eight months and is not a typical job application, involving role-playing and psychometric tests, as well as interviews.

The most sought-after employers in Canberra include:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Australian Federal Police
  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Departments of Agriculture, Defence, Education, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Health, Social Services, and Prime Minister and Cabinet

When looking for graduate jobs, keep an eye on new listings on the GradAustralia website, and consider attending a graduate careers fair. Tertiary to Work provides opportunities to students of all disciplines, usually held in March each year.

Universities also offer various career events to help you learn more about your graduate jobs and employers:

  • Australian National University offers: ANU Law Careers Fair, ANU Science Society Careers Fair, and others.
  • The University of Canberra offers an event called Employer Connect.

Many employers also offer ‘entry-level’ jobs that are not specifically advertised as ‘graduate’ jobs. Keep an eye out for these on job boards such as SEEK.

Other options for recent graduates in Canberra

If you're set on gaining a position in Canberra but still not sure what you want to do, or if you haven't had any luck locking down a graduate job, you might want to consider:

Lastly, if you’re not sure if moving to Canberra is the right path for you, check out our comprehensive moving guide.


Advice for Graduate Jobs in Canberra (ACT)

Video interview with an lady applicant.
Graduate Advice

Video interviews are commonly used in graduate recruitment. We give you tips on how to prepare and what to consider to help you launch your graduate career.

Australian Parliament building in Canberra
Graduate Advice

Canberra is a leader in graduate recruitment – if you've applied for a government grad program, check out our detailed guide for a smooth transition.

workplace diversity - people having a meeting
Graduate Advice

Equal opportunity in the workplace plays a key part in protecting human rights. Find out what it is, why it matters and how it affects you.


Videos for Graduate Jobs in Canberra (ACT)

Graduate Stories

DHS Graduate Profile Image- Holly
Australian Government Department of Human Services
Holly studied a Bachelor of Public Relations in Communications at the University of Canberra
Icon Graduate Profile Image- Abdullah
Abdullah studied a Bachelor of Applied Science (Construction Management) at the Curtin University
King & Wood Mallesons Graduate Profile Image - Nathan
King & Wood Mallesons
Nathan studied Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) and Bachelor of Laws at The University of New South Wales.

A day in the life of…