MOST of this year’s intake of engineering students will have jobs that pay up to twice the average graduate salary even before they graduate.
The Hunter’s mining boom is fuelling strong demand for places in engineering disciplines at Newcastle and other universities.
Mining graduates are now rivalling, and in some cases, exceeding the starting salaries for lawyers and doctors.
Annual starting salaries for engineering graduates start at $63,000 with some earning up to $80,000. That figure can grow to more than $150,000 after five years.
By comparison, medical graduates have average starting salaries of $60,000, and teachers start at $56,000.
The University of Newcastle’s 2011 graduate survey results show the university’s engineering graduates were earning slightly above average median starting salaries.
Mining Education Australia estimates demand for mining engineers is double the current supply of graduates.
‘‘These graduates are earning particularly good money when you consider most of them are under 25 and it’s their first job,’’ Graduate Careers Australia research strategy advisor Bruce Guthrie said. ‘‘If they are working in the field of mining and the mining companies continue to operate at core levels then the demand [for graduates] will stay there.’’
The field is expected to remain the nation’s fastest growing employment sector for the next five years.
The total national mining workforce is expected to more than double in the next 20 years, from an estimated 693,000 to 1.45million.
Xstrata Coal, which operates eight mines in the Hunter, has employed 110 graduate engineers in NSW since 2003. Twenty-three of those positions have been offered in the past 12 months.
While most of the Hunter’s prospective engineering students apply to study at the University of Newcastle, many also apply to the University of NSW’s specialist mining engineering program.
Manager of the university’s school of mining engineering Corinne Payne said: ‘‘Almost all students seeking a graduate role will secure one before graduation, many are secured during the middle of their final year.’’
‘‘They undertake paid vacation work at mine sites across Australia.’’