Poor employment rates for international graduates in Australia

Multiple studies show that finding a job as an international student is hard, with the majority of students failing to secure full time employment in their field of study.

In this post I’m going to share some statistics on post graduation employment as an international student in Australia.

Australia has a friendly narrative regarding post graduation- through the 485 visa, the (bachelors degree) student can stay in Australia for up to two years. This time is used for the student to find a job in their field of study, build up experience, network with locals, as well as giving the student a chance to pay off some of their debts from attending university. The student does not have to secure employment before their graduation to be eligible for the visa, unlike the post graduation work program in the US.

How effective is it?

While some students are able to take advantage of the 485 visa and gain employment post graduation, it appears that the majority of students do not. When comparing the employment rates between domestic and international graduates, it’s clear that international graduates are struggling significantly. 

We are talking about 15 percent of overseas graduates obtaining a full-time job within four months after graduation. By comparison domestic graduates fare much better with 50 per cent finding full-time work.

For those that are employed, they are likely to be underemployed. Those who stay in Australia post graduation

are more likely to work in relatively low or unskilled occupations in the fields of retails, restaurants and cafes and services.

Compared to the students who return home after their education, they are less likely to achieve education-job mismatch.

36 per cent current and past 485 holders remaining in Australia work in their field of study as compared to almost 50 per cent for those returning to their home country.

Even those who are able to find a job at a disadvantage, where their median income are lower than that of nationals in the country.

The median of income per annum was $60,000 for those with a Masters by coursework degree and $54,000 for the participants with a Bachelor degree. These figures are considerably lower than the median of Australian graduates’ fulltime salaries of $83,300 for postgraduate coursework and $61,000 for undergraduates in 2018.

Who is getting hired?

Interviews show that IT international graduates are more likely to be hired among international graduates. There are several reasons proposed for this phenomenon:

  • IT skills can be tested through programming challenges such as Leetcode
  • It is common in the IT industry to outsource labour, which may make the field a more welcoming place towards internationals.
  • Many IT managers are themselves from international backgrounds.

These are, of course, just speculation.

What’s the problem here?

Multiple reasons were cited for the low employment rate among international graduates in Australia.

  • Employers are unwilling to hire a student on the 485 visa, for fears that the training they provide would be wasted as the employee leaves after the 2 year period.
  • Employers looking for employees that fit with the local culture.
  • Employers unwilling to spend resources on employing international graduates due to the paper work involved.

The intention of this post is to paint a realistic picture of post graduation employment in Australia. There are pages upon pages of resources on the internet on studying abroad, but not much on what happens after. This post is only a short summary of the situation, and anyone desiring to learn more about this topic should visit the sources I cited below.


[1] Temporary Graduatification: Impacts of post-study work rights policy in Australia

[2] Economic opportunities and outcomes of post-study work rights in Australia

[3] Australian International Graduates And The Transition To Employment

[4] How are new overseas graduates faring in the labour market?

[5] International Student Connectedness and Identity: Transnational Perspectives