How much are law graduates worth?

How much are law graduates worth?

15 November 2021 By Naomi Neilson

If studying at the right university and following the right job prospects, today’s cohort of law graduates could be earning a decent salary and will have a solid chance of securing work straight after graduation. According to new data, the post-COVID job market will look favourably upon these law graduates over the next few years.

Examining in full detail how much difference a person’s study of choice makes, the Commonwealth Department of Education used earnings data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to determine the income graduates can expect when they enter the job market. The final data came down to not only the degrees they pursued or external opportunities they sought but the university they studied in.

Narrowing the data down to law, Protégé learnt that these graduates are earning a middle-ranged salary median, sitting behind medicine, dentistry, teacher education, engineering and nursing, which all ranged between $84,000 and $62,200 starting salaries. In comparison, law sat in the ninth spot behind veterinary science.

Depending on the university, however, law graduates could be taking home the starting salary of anywhere between $65,000 and $80,600. Using only the median data, those less lucky fell between the $40,000 and $50,000 price points.


The ATO data did specify where this could vary: “It is important to acknowledge that measurable factors identified above such as student, course and institution characteristics explain only a small part of the overall variation in incomes. Other factors not measured such as occupation and industry and personal characteristics such as motivation and resilience are likely to influence graduate incomes.”

Analysing the gender difference, the ATO data found that female graduates are more likely to be employed immediately following graduation. The more important point it made was that the gap between female and male employment among graduates has grown over time, increasing by two percentage points between 2008 and 2015.

“Gender plays a much larger role in graduate incomes over the long term, though much less so immediately following graduation,” the report found. “The different choices made by male and female graduates as they move between various labour market states highlights the role played by supply factors … over the longer term.”

Study areas and universities with a lower initial income were more likely to have graduates undertaking further study, which then delayed their entry to the labour market and lowered their starting salary. Thereafter, graduates from these study areas and universities “achieved faster growth and reduced uncertainty” in income.

Analysing the employment sector after the Great Financial Crisis and comparing it to the most recent pandemic, the report found that there is a strong chance for today’s graduates to do better in the labour market not only because of a history of university degrees being beneficial but because high-skilled individuals do better in crisis.


“The experience of graduate cohorts following the GFC demonstrates demand-side factors play an influential role in shaping graduate outcomes,” the report found. “Tracking graduates over time suggests that graduate incomes over the longer term are the result of the rich interplay of demand and supply forces.”

Turning now to the universities offering the best chances for greater income, Protégé again narrowed down the data to focus only on law, undergraduate degrees and the median price range. It is important to note that these amounts certainly vary depending on the individual, their motivation in the legal profession, the field that they choose to practise in and many other personal and professional factors.

The universities offering the greatest income for law graduates start at Charles Sturt University, which boasts an $80,600 median starting salary, followed by the University of New South Wales at $66,900 and The College of Law with $65,100. Close behind is the University of Technology Sydney and the University of WA.

Sitting at the other end of the band is the University of the Sunshine Coast, which offers its law graduates a $38,800 initial income. From there, it’s the University of Tasmania with $43,100, RMIT with $46,200 and the University of South Australia at $47,000.

Each salary option appears below for many of Australia’s universities, excluding the University of Melbourne and Federation University Australia, which did not provide any data relevant to the median salary for undergraduate students.

Please again note that these amounts can vary. The following numbers are based on data narrowed down to: median graduate income, law, and undergraduate degrees.

Charles Sturt University


University of New South Wales


The College of Law


University of Technology Sydney


The University of Western Australia


The University of Sydney


Charles Darwin University


Macquarie University


The Australian National University


The University of Queensland


The University of New England


Monash University


University of Wollongong


Curtin University


University of Canberra


The University of Newcastle


University of Notre Dame


Queensland University of Technology


Leo Cussen Institute


Murdoch University


The University of Adelaide


Swinburne University


Deakin University


CQ university


Griffith University


University of Southern Queensland


Bond University


La Trobe University


Flinders University


Victoria University


Southern Cross University


Australian Catholic University


James Cook University


Edith Cowan University


Western Sydney University


University of South Australia


RMIT University


University of Tasmania


University of the Sunshine Coast



How much are law graduates worth?
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