A new study by researchers at The University of Western Australia has found that more than one-quarter of Australian graduates are overqualified for their jobs after they complete university.
Overqualification occurs when an individual is qualified at a level above what the job requires and has been associated with adverse labour market consequences, such as lower wages and job dissatisfaction.
The study published in Economic Record identifies the extent and earnings consequence of overqualified graduates in Australia. In addition, the national study also looked at horizontal mismatch, which is when graduates work in jobs that are incompatible with their field of study.
The team from UWA, Curtin University and Swansea University found that the field of study was a key influencer of education-job mismatch and the likelihood of education-job mismatch for graduates from occupation-specific fields such as education, allied health and nursing was much lower than for their peers in broader fields of study, including natural and physical sciences, human studies, society and culture, and creative arts.
Dr Ian Li, an economist from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health, said there needed to be more consideration given to how the supply of graduates could be better matched to demand, or the jobs currently available.
“Given the dynamic nature of the labour market today, we also need to think about how we educate graduates and whether their education allows them to be versatile and adaptable to a changing world,” Dr Li said.
“Our study shows that any form of mismatch is associated with earnings disadvantage, and graduates who are mismatched in more than one form could earn substantially less.
“Furthermore, mismatched graduates are also more likely to be in temporary work, and be working part-time. Given that the majority of our study sample are young graduates, these outcomes are poor.”
Dr Li said the proportion of mismatched graduates decreased in the longer term but remained substantial.
“These findings suggest that it is highly important for students to consider the probability of securing a job in their chosen field when they are selecting their university course before starting tertiary education,” he said.