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Home | Got a Minute | Career advice | No. 18 – Does having a university degree mean you’ll get paid more?

No. 18 – Does having a university degree mean you’ll get paid more?

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30 June 2021

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, the effect education has on income, stigma around working remotely, and potty-mouthed colleagues.

I have always wondered whether having tertiary qualifications, such as a Bachelor’s degree, means you will be paid more when you apply for a job than if you only have a Diploma. Is that the case?

That is a tricky question to answer because every job and career is so different! Anecdotally, I would think on most occasions (and all other things being equal), someone with a degree will be paid more than someone with a diploma. Yet I know that is not always the case, and in many people’s careers it is not even the most relevant factor. Recent data comparing the median income of Australian university graduates with vocational education and training graduates shows the results are pretty line-ball.

I think the more important decision for anyone thinking about this issue is to study whatever it is you are passionate about, and that will support you to have the career you wish to pursue. Whether that is a degree or diploma will depend on the career you choose, the amount you wish to spend on study, the amount of time you want to study and even considerations such as how flexible you like your study to be.

At my workplace, if someone is working remotely it is only ever referred to as “working from home”, leaving little room for other possible working locations to be included in the definition. How can we change people viewing remote work like this and the old stigma that comes from working outside an office?

I agree with you – we need to ditch the term “working from home” and just think about it as work.

For many traditionally office-based jobs, whether you are at home, working from a van travelling around Australia, from a hotel or a shared office in a different city, should not matter. All that matters is that you are delivering what you need to, in the timeframe you need to, and that you are working in a way that aligns with the values and purpose of whatever it is you do. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it is the physical location we happen to do our work is largely irrelevant.

In terms of removing the stigma, we have taken huge strides during the pandemic, but I can see some of the old attitudes starting to return. At some workplaces, employees have to return to the office as soon as able. Other employers proudly promote “work from anywhere”. Thankfully this divide offers an opportunity for employees to think about what is important to them and work for an organisation that aligns with that.

I retired two years ago but returned to the workforce and have never been exposed to so much swearing in my life. I know my boss needs these people due to staff shortages and I have thought about going to HR, but my boss is a good man, and I would like to keep my job. How can I get this group of profanity spewing colleagues to stop?

Have you been able to tell your colleagues how you are feeling? I realise I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, but it may be that your colleagues are completely unaware that you feel uncomfortable and perhaps they would be happy to change if they knew. It sounds like it has been part of the team culture and as a relatively new team member, you are entitled to speak up. If that doesn’t work or if you don’t feel comfortable to speak up, why not chat with your boss? It is his responsibility to ensure everyone feels safe and included at work and you have said he is a good person so is bound to want to help sort this out. Hopefully there is a relatively easy way for you to address this issue without causing unnecessary conflict and I would not think you, or anyone in your team, needs to lose their job.

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