Career Development and Study Intentions of Employed Australians

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ABSTRACT: The purpose of this research is to identify the career development and study intentions of employed Australians for the year 2016. Through an online interview approach, the intentions of Australians to change careers and/or seek a pay rise, and attain qualifications, is identified. While career development motives are high, the realisation of these motives through educational attainment is low. A strategy that seeks to improve employee retention and enable more time and cost effective means of acquiring qualifications is suggested.

1. Introduction

This report aims to identify the career development and study intentions of employed Australians through an online interview. While the job (Roy Morgan, 2014) and labour mobility (ABS, 2008) intentions of Australians in the former, and Western Australians in the latter, have been examined, no research to date has examined these motives alongside the study intentions of the population, particularly when education has a proven impact on employment (ABS 2015, 2012). Accordingly this study will investigate a) career development motives, b) study intentions, and c) career development motives alongside study intentions.

2. Methodology

The Qualifications and Employment Poll was conducted across Australia between 9 December and 13 December 2015 through an online interview. Questions were designed by leading skills recognition & RPL company Get Qualified Australia, and data independently collected online via the Australian Market & Social Research Panel, Ipsos Observer.

2.1 Sample

Data was collected from a nationally representative sample of 1052 (n=1052) interviewees over the age of 18 years, with age, gender, and state location being used as controls to ensure results were representative of the entire Australian population. Qualifying questions included standard Omnibus demographic measures of age, gender, education, marital status, number of persons per household, employment, income, and state as well as urban/rural location.

2.2 Measures

The poll aimed to identify career development and study intentions in the first instance, and the underlying motivations of these factors in the second. Accordingly, intention to change or improve one’s career, intention to study and/or seek additional qualifications, motivation to change or improve one’s career, and motivation for studying and/or seeking additional qualifications were the four main outcomes measured.

3. Results

One thousand and fifty two eligible participants nationally representative of the entire population, took part in, and successfully completed the interview. The results of the study are broken down into four identified measures.

3.1 Intention to change career and/or seek pay rise

Of those employed, 38% of the represented sample expressed an intention to either change careers and/or seek a pay rise within their current role. Majority were in either full or part-time employment, working within the professional/managerial and sales/clerical industries, and earning $100,000 or more. The Northern Territory and ACT presented the highest percentage of employed persons seeking a career change and/or seek a pay rise.

3.2 Intention to study and/or seek additional qualifications

A quarter of the sample conveyed an intent to undertake study or seek additional qualifications in 2016, with the highest percentage of those being from Rural South Australia. Those with postgraduate qualifications were identified as being more likely than any other category to seek additional qualifications, followed closely by those with basic vocational qualifications.

3.3 Reason for studying and/or seeking additional qualifications

The primary reason specified for undertaking study or seeking additional qualifications in 2016 was to acquire a new job (59%), followed by pay rise motives (26%).

3.4 Reason for not studying and/or seeking additional qualifications

Results showed that more than half (53%) of those interviewed didn’t think they needed qualifications, while a quarter found the whole process too expensive. The length of time it took to acquire a qualification deterred over 15% from seeking a qualification or additional qualifications.

4. Discussion

It is clear from the results that, while more than half of Australians are happy with their current careers, more than a third are hoping to change jobs or seek a pay rise, up 4% from 2014 (Roy Morgan, 2014). This increase in career development motives presents an alarming statistic for businesses and HR professionals hoping to retain their staff. With a large proportion of employed Australians being led by pay rise motives, the need for organisations to revaluate their retention and recruitment strategies proves paramount as a means to ensure ongoing customer satisfaction and motivation.

While the number of employed Australians seeking better career opportunities is high, it is interesting to note that only one quarter are willing to realise their career aspirations through formal certification. The fact that people find the process of acquiring a qualification both time-consuming and expensive, or on the other end of the spectrum, unnecessary, points to the pending need to identify a cost and time-effective means of acquiring a qualification.

Although quick online courses, or ‘fast qualifications’ have reduced the need to study full-length, high-cost qualifications, their validity both within the educational sector and industry has been disputed.

The proliferation of legitimate qualification methods that enable low-cost, time-efficient accreditation endorsed by both industry and Government, such as Recognition of Prior Learning, will enable a larger proportion of employed Australians to fulfil their career development goals through the attainment of qualifications.


Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, Learning and Work, Australia, 2010-11, Cat. no. 4235.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 25 February 2015

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, Education and Work, Australia, May 2015, Cat. no. 6227.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, accessed 25 February 2015


About the Researcher: Get Qualified Australia is the nation’s leading skills recognition & RPL Specialist, helping Australians achieve nationally recognised qualifications in a cost and time-effective way. 

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