2071.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/10/2017   
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Many Australians continue their education beyond school years and complete non-school qualifications such as degrees, diplomas and certificates. This summary uses 2016 Census data to provide an overview of non-school qualifications for the population aged 15 years and over.


The 2016 Census shows that 56% of Australians aged 15 years and over, or 9.6 million people, held a non-school qualification, up from 46% in 2006.

In 2016, close to one-quarter (24%) of Australians had completed a Bachelor degree or above, almost 10% had an Advanced diploma or diploma, and just under 21% had completed a Certificate level qualification. The largest growth was in Bachelor degrees or above (up from 18% in 2006). This growth is likely to continue considering one-fifth (21%) of all students in Australia were attending university in 2016, compared with 16% ten years ago.

Infographic showing the change in different levels of qualifications over time, 2006, 2011 and 2016.


This Census is the first time more than half of the population in each state or territory has held a non-school qualification. The Australian Capital Territory had the highest proportion of people with qualifications (65%, aged 15 years and over).

Most youth and adults living in Greater capital cities in 2016 held non-school qualifications (58%), compared to 52% outside of capital cities. Almost half of those with qualifications in capital cities held a Bachelor degree or above (49%), 17% held an Advanced diploma or diploma and 32% held a Certificate level qualification. These proportions shifted significantly for people living outside capital cities – with 30% holding Bachelor degrees and above, 18% with an Advanced diploma or diploma and 50% with Certificate level qualifications.

Infographic showing the proportion of people in each state and territory with qualifications.


The gap in educational attainment between men and women has narrowed over the past ten years. In 2006, 51% of men and 42% of women reported holding a non-school qualification. In 2016, this gap was smaller: 58% of men and 54% of women. In 2016, a larger proportion of women (67%) in the younger age group of 20-34 years held non-school qualifications than men (62%), contributing to the narrowing of the gap between both sexes. This was particularly evident for women aged 20-24 years, where 50% held non-school qualifications compared with 43% of men.

Infographic showing the proportion of men and women of different ages with qualifications.

Levels of educational attainment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have increased in the ten years since 2006. Whereas one-quarter (25%) of the population aged 15 years and over held a non-school qualification in 2006, this increased to well over one-third (37%) in 2016.

People born overseas were more likely to have a non-school qualification (60%) than those born in Australia (54%). Almost eight in ten Australians (79.3%) who were born in India held a non-school qualification, with those born in Bangladesh coming a close second (78.7%).

Infographic showing India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Canada as countries of birth with the highest proportion of people with qualifications.


Of people aged 20–64 years with a non-school qualification, 81% were employed, compared with 63% of those with no qualification. Almost 80% of people with a Certificate level qualification or an Advanced diploma and diploma were employed, increasing to 83% of those with a Bachelor degree and above.

Infographic showing the proportion of people employed and median personal income by the level of qualification.

Qualified people had higher incomes. Of the employed population aged 20–64 years, those with non-school qualifications had higher median personal incomes than those without qualifications. In 2016, people with Bachelor degrees and above earned $600 more each week than those with no qualifications, on average.


Highly qualified people were more likely to be employed in professional occupations.

The most common occupations in 2016 for people with a Bachelor degree or above were Registered nurses and Primary and Secondary school teachers. Men with a Bachelor degree or above were more likely to be Accountants (56,000) or Software applications programmers (51,600), whereas women were more likely to be Registered nurses (141,700) or Primary school teachers (111,700).

For those with other non-school qualifications, the most common occupations were Sales assistants, Electricians and Child carers. Men with other qualifications were more likely to be Electricians (90,700) or Carpenters and joiners (73,200), whereas women were more likely to be Child carers (75,900) or Sales assistants (67,800).

Infographic showing the top five occupations for people with different levels of qualifications.

Qualifications often play a critical role when determining the minimum level of knowledge, skills and competence required for a job and can be specific to a person’s occupation. For example, of all qualified and employed Registered nurses aged 20-64 years, 94% held their highest non-school qualification in a health related field. Fields of study were more varied for qualified Aged and disabled carers – 61% held their highest qualification in Society and culture, 15% in Health and 8% in a Management and commerce related field.


Population with a qualification excludes all people with a 'Not stated' value for Non-school qualification: level of education. This excludes 225,460 people who reported a field of study but not a level of education, as well as other 'Not stated' responses.

People who did not state their labour force status were not included in the calculation of the proportion employed.

This data summary is based on usual residence Census counts and excludes overseas visitors in Australia for less than a year.

For definitions of the terms used above, see the Census of Population and Housing: Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0). Selected items are also included in the Glossary, from the Explanatory Notes tab at the top of this page. For more information about 2016 Census data release and products, go to www.abs.gov.au/census.

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Data contained in this data summary and further related data can be found in the Downloads tab at the top of the page.