Occupation Overview

In which occupations do Australians work?

Many people considering training and employment think in terms of occupations. From an early age, we identify with occupations, like Hairdresser or Truck Driver. Few people, however, recognise the wide range of occupations and employment opportunities available in the Australian labour market. The Occupation Matrix includes data for around 350 occupations covering the whole labour market.

Occupations can be grouped into eight major occupation groups according to their skill level and skill type. The largest (and one of the most highly skilled) is Professionals, which accounts for almost one in four Australian workers (or more than 2.9 million).

The next two largest occupation groups are Technicians and Trades Workers (almost 1.8 million workers) and Clerical and Administrative Workers (more than 1.6 million).

The most highly skilled groups are Managers, Professionals and Technicians and Trades Workers (significant shares of workers in these groups hold post-school qualifications). The lowest skilled are Labourers, Machinery Operators and Drivers and Sales Workers (less than half of these workers hold post-school qualifications).

Many factors differentiate occupations, including tasks, educational requirements and the main employing industries. For example, if you are a Medical Practitioner, you will have a higher education qualification and you are very likely to work in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry.

More information is available at joboutlook.gov.au.

Share of total jobs, five years to November 2017 (%)

This pie chart shows the share of total new jobs by occupation. Managers 12%. Professionals 37%. Technicians and Trades Workers 11%. Community and Personal Service Workers 23%. Sales Workers 8%. Machinery Operators and Drivers 4%. Labourers 5%.

Which occupations have gained or lost jobs?

Over the five years to November 2017, employment grew in all occupation groups except Clerical and Administrative Workers (down by 18,400 or 1.1%).

Consistent with the long term trend towards more highly skilled jobs, the largest numbers of new jobs created over the five years to November 2017 were for Professionals (up by 375,000 or 14.8%, representing 37% of all new jobs). The strongest growth was for Community and Personal Service Workers (up by 21.4% or 234,300).

The specific occupations which recorded the largest numbers of new jobs over the five years to November 2017 were

  • General Sales Assistants (up by 51,700)
  • Aged and Disabled Carers (49,800)
  • Registered Nurses (47,300).

Occupations which recorded employment falls over the past five years include

  • Accounting Clerks (down by 21,900)
  • Secretaries (21,100)
  • Commercial Cleaners (15,600).

The Department of Jobs and Small Business produces annual employment projections by occupation for the following five years. For more information on the expected employment change by occupation over the five years to May 2022 see the Occupation Outlook and the Occupation Matrix.

In which occupations do young people work?

Young workers (aged 15 to 24 years) are predominantly employed in occupations which do not require post-school qualifications. Consistent with this, more than one third of Sales Workers are young.

Specific occupations with the largest numbers of young people are

  • General Sales Assistants (263,400)
  • Waiters (88,300)
  • Checkout Operators and Office Cashiers (82,400).

How do earnings vary by occupation?

Workers employed in higher skilled occupations tend to earn more than those in lower skilled jobs. There are some occupations, though, for which advanced qualifications are not necessary yet pay is relatively high. This is often in recognition of challenging working conditions, unsociable hours or the need to live away from home.

Information about earnings is included in the Occupation Matrix, but be sure to read the Guide to the Occupation Matrix.

Occupations which have high earnings include Anaesthetists (for which the training time is long), Human Resource Managers (who have high levels of responsibility) and Train and Tram Drivers (who may work difficult shifts).

Employment by occupation group

Employment by occupation group
  Employment Employment Profile Workforce Educational Profile Projected Employment
  Employ’t Nov 2017 5 year change
to Nov 2017
Part-time Female Aged 15 to 24 years Aged 55 years or older Bachelor degree or higher Cert III or higher VET qual No post-school qual 5 year change to May 2022
Occupation group ‘000 ‘000 % % % % % % % % %
Managers 1,542.9 118.2 8.3 14 37 4 24 37 30 28 7.8
Professionals 2,914.1 375.0 14.8 26 55 6 19 75 14 8 12.1
Technicians and Trades Workers 1,773.4 110.7 6.7 15 14 16 16 8 64 23 4.8
Community and Personal Service Workers 1,331.4 234.3 21.4 55 69 24 15 18 42 32 19.2
Clerical and Administrative Workers 1,666.1 -18.4 -1.1 37 75 10 22 23 30 40 1.7
Sales Workers 1,155.5 88.4 8.3 56 61 36 14 13 22 57 3.6
Machinery Operators and Drivers 799.5 43.1 5.7 16 9 9 25 6 30 56 3.6
Labourers 1,204.1 51.4 4.5 47 35 23 20 8 24 60 5.3
All Occupations1 12,380.1 970.7 8.5 32 47 14 19 30 31 33 7.8

1. Some data are trend and, for these, totals do not add

Sources: ABS, Labour Force (trend and annual averages of original data); ABS, Census of Population and Housing; Department of Jobs and Small Business, Occupation Employment Projections; ABS, Characteristics of Employment