A prime destination on every traveller’s calendar, Sydney offers an enviable array of enticing experiences. Fortunately for graduates, Sydney also offers a global job market, with diverse opportunities almost unrivaled by any capital city in Australia.
Sydney is an advanced economy, with strengths in tourism, finance and manufacturing. Over 90 per cent of international banks have their regional headquarters and over 60 per cent of technology companies are based in Sydney, making it a world-class hub of knowledge-based businesses.
Sydney is a significant economic driver in Australia and has the most employing businesses out of any capital city in Australia, with more than a fifth of Australia’s total employment income going to people working in the city.
Sydney is a melting pot of cultures and has a large community of English, Irish, and Chinese immigrants, which results in diverse workplaces. Compared to other Australian cities, graduates in Sydney can get significantly higher salaries depending on their specialisation. That being said, Sydney is also consistently rated as Australia’s most expensive city to live in. The search for a graduate job in the city is competitive and generally the cost of living is high, but the opportunities that the city offers to start and grow a career are what makes Sydney such an attractive option for finding a graduate job.
Figure 1: Number of employing businesses in Sydney vs other Australian cities
Sydney is Australia’s largest city, and over 20% of all employment opportunities in Australia are located just in this region. Even more of the total national employment income is earned in Sydney – 23% of all the money earned by Australian workers comes from this city. Sydney is a great place for graduates to begin their careers, with more than 30% of Australia’s graduates finding employment in New South Wales. That’s not surprising, with the highest concentration of employers in Australia. Sydney is home to over 200,000 businesses, which makes up almost 25% of all Australian employers.
Figure 2: Percentage of total employment per industry in Sydney
Professional jobs are in demand, with more than 300,000 professionals working in Sydney, making up 12% of the city’s industries. 12% of Sydney’s workers are in health care-related positions, and a further 9% work in retail. On the other end of the scale, utilities, agriculture and mining each employ less than 1% of the workforce.
Figure 3: Employment status of graduates with Bachelor degrees in New South Wales
The number of graduates who are available for employment but are unable to find jobs is fairly similar to statistics for other Australian locations. 11% of graduates are unable to find graduate jobs in New South Wales, with 89% of graduates employed, including 70% who are in full-time positions.
Figure 4: Sydney annual growth rates vs other cities in Australia
Sydney has the highest annual growth rate in Australia. At 11.1%, Sydney far surpasses the national average of 8.3% annual growth. There are a significant number of industries that have predicted growth rates of over 10%, but the industries with the greatest predicted growth over the next 5 years are professional services (with a 21.5% annual growth rate) and the healthcare industry, which is expected to grow by 18.9% annually.
Not every industry is thriving, however. Some industries in Sydney are expected to experience a sharp decline. Mining shows an annual growth rate of -10.9% over the next 5 years, with manufacturing falling by 6.1% and agriculture falling by 2.8%.
Figure 5: Sydney growth rates by industry
Figure 6: Unemployment rates in Sydney vs other cities in Australia
Sydney has some of the lowest rates of unemployment across Australia, with only Darwin showing lower figures of general unemployment. The youth unemployment rate in Sydney sits at 11%, below the national average of 12.9%. The unemployment rate for all workers aged 15 and older is also below the Australian average of 5.6%, sitting at 4.7%.
Figure 7: Graduate unemployment rates in New South Wales vs other locations in Australia
For graduates who are looking for employment, the numbers tell a similar story. New South Wales has the second-lowest rates of graduate unemployment, with only the ACT having a lower rate. Only 10.4% of graduates in New South Wales who are looking for full-time work are unable to find it, compared to a national average of 11.3%.
Figure 8: Percent of total employment by occupation in Sydney
Office jobs make up a very large percentage of Sydney occupations. Managers account for 13.4%, clerical and administrative workers make up 15% of the workforce, while professionals have the largest proportion of workers at 29.3%. Sales workers (8.6%), labourers (7.7%) and machinery operators and drivers (5.6%) make up a smaller part of Sydney’s workforce. At 31.3%, Sydney leads the country in the percentage of full-time professionals working in the greater Sydney region.
Figure 9: Percentage of full-time employees working as professionals in Sydney
According to Graduate Survey results, the top 5 roles in Sydney are:
Figure 10: Comparison of median and mean employee incomes by city
The median income for Sydney workers is $50,085, which is the fourth-highest in Australia and $3,000 above the national average. The mean income for Sydney earners is also high – at $63,754, it is also the fourth highest in Australia and $5,000 above the national average. The mean income for jobs in Sydney is 27.3% above the median, meaning the distribution of wages is not even across all occupations – there are likely to be jobs with lucrative salaries that are much higher than the norm.
Figure 11: Sydney median graduate starting salary vs other states/territories
Graduate salaries in Sydney are on par with the national average of $54,000, in line with both Queensland and South Australia. Graduate incomes in Sydney vary, with graduates of law and legal studies expecting an average starting salary of $78,283 and health and medical science graduates expecting an average salary of $53,000. With Sydney’s extensive range of graduate programs, offering mentoring, ongoing training and rotations, most graduates may be less concerned about a slightly lower starting range.
Figure 12: Average graduate starting salary by discipline in Sydney
Figure 13: Average graduate job hours per week in Sydney
Sydney graduates report a wide range in the length of a typical workweek. More than half of respondents said their workweek was between 40 and 50 hours long, and just under a third work between 30-40 hours a week. At 24%, quite a sizeable proportion of Sydney graduates are working more than 50 hours, with some even working between 80-90 hours a week. The difference in weekly working hours averages to 45.3 hours per week, which is the highest in the country and more than 2 hours a week longer than Brisbane, with the next highest number of hours.
Job satisfaction is a hard thing to quantify, but a GradAustralia survey found that Sydney graduates rated their job satisfaction at 8.6 out of 10. This rating puts Sydney in the middle when ranking the responses from the other capital cities, and is slightly higher than the national average.
Figure 14: Average diversity score in Sydney vs other cities
In GradAustralia’s graduate survey, Sydney ranked third in workplace diversity with a score of 8.7, falling behind Darwin and Perth – although the score is higher than the national average. With a large population of residents who have come from or descended from places all over the world, it’s unsurprising that the workplaces in Sydney reflect that diversity.
Figure 15: Male and female participation rates by industry in Sydney
Female participation across all industries in Sydney is about 41%, however, that rate of participation is strongly influenced by the industry that the graduate position falls into. Healthcare and education have a far great proportion of females in the workforce, with more than 70% female participation in these industries. Mining employees are less than 4% female, and construction is also predominantly male, with less than 15% of workers being women.
Figure 16: Median graduate starting salary for males and females in Sydney vs other cities
Sydney has the largest gap between male and female starting salaries of any capital city, with males starting on a salary that is on average 6% higher than females. The average starting salary for bachelor-level male graduates is $55,000, while females with a bachelor degree have an average starting salary of $52,000. The average salary for male graduates is the same as the national average, while females earn $1,000 less than the average female starting salary across Australia.
The job market in Sydney is very competitive, posing a challenge for graduate job seekers to ensure their application stands out. There has been a steady rise in the number of jobs available for graduates, but there has also been a rise in the number of graduates who are applying for those jobs. Internet job boards, word-of-mouth referrals and social media are excellent ways to secure employment. Recruitment agencies can also be helpful, particularly for finding short-term employment. To ensure your application stands out, you can check out GradAustralia’s advice on applying, interviews and assessments.
The most sought-after employers in Sydney include:
When looking for graduate jobs, keep an eye on new listings on the GradAustralia website, and consider attending a graduate careers fair. To ensure you don’t miss out on the latest graduate programs and career advice, sign up for updates from GradAustralia.
Sydney offers a number of valuable career fairs that will allow you to connect with employers hiring university graduates. These are usually held in the month of March and may be held in the city or on campus at your university. The Big Meet in Sydney, organised by AAGE, provides opportunities for graduates of all disciplines.
Universities offer various career events to help you learn more about graduate programs and employers, such as:
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.
Peak graduate recruitment season is in March, however, many of the larger employers will start accepting applications as early as January or February. Register for job alerts from GradAustralia to ensure you’re on top of all the new opportunities and deadlines.
If you're set on Sydney 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:
Last, but not least, you might want to check out our moving guide to Sydney!