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Graduate salary and perks in the construction industry

Allan Ruddy

You’ll soon be able to start building up your bank balance once you score a full-time gig in construction.

Starting salaries and benefits for those in the construction industry aren’t spectacular, but neither is there much reason for complaint.    

What the survey says

Most people don’t go into the construction industry hoping to pull down telephone-number salaries. But after years of hard slog at uni they want to earn a decent wage, as well as achieve a comfortable standard of living as their career progresses.

GradAustralia surveyed over 3000 grads working for 70 of Australia’s largest graduate employers. It found site engineers, graduate engineers, architectural graduates, property development graduates, assistant development managers, graduate analysts, graduate environmental scientists and graduate cost managers are, collectively, doing alright. They earn an average salary, once bonuses are factored in, of $65,983 for what is typically a 46-hour work week.

That means they’re doing better than grads in the accounting and advisory; consulting; IT and communications; public service and transport and logistics industries. On the other hand, they’re not doing as well as their peers in the banking and financial services; law; mining; R&D and manufacturing; mining, oil and gas and retail and consumer goods industries.

Construction industry starting salaries are spread across a wide range. Survey results showed only four per cent of all grads earn between $45,000 - $55,000 but 44 per cent are getting $55,000 - $65,000 and 43 percent are pocketing $65,000 - $75,000 straight out of uni. A lucky ten percent are earning more than $75,000.

Given those figures, it’s perhaps unsurprising that construction industry grads are pretty content with their work situations. They collectively rate their overall satisfaction at 3.9 stars out of five. Admittedly, the situation is a little less rosy when it comes to hours (3.2 stars out of five) and career prospects (3.1 stars out of five).     

What you can expect down the track

Salaries within the construction industry vary widely depending on the role. PayScale recently surveyed around 2500 people working in the Australian construction industry. It found they earned, on average, salaries:

  • Project Manager, Construction: $100,952
  • Project Engineer: $89,158
  • Civil Engineer: $70,236
  • Construction Manager: $120,249
  • Construction Estimator: $72,534
  • Quantity Surveyor: $76,728*

Common benefits

Perhaps because they offer good salaries, the construction industry isn’t noted for offering the lavish benefits found in some other industries. However, most large employers offer their grad employees a suite of benefits and those in the construction sector are no exception. You can expect to be able to access some or all of the following:   

  • Study leave/education expenses. If you do need to hit the books again for some reason, your employer may pay you to do so and cover any course fees
  • Sporting and social events. While networking and socialising isn’t as central to construction as some other industries you can expect to be invited to lunches, dinners, drinks nights and possibly sporting events.
  • Subsidised or free insurance. Construction can be a dangerous industry and employers will often subsidise health, income protection and TPI insurance
  • Car allowance/novated lease. Especially if your new role involves you driving around to different work sites, your new company will normally play some role in facilitating and funding that travel.

Construction companies will often also offer all their staff some combination of the following benefits:

  • Health checks/flu vaccines
  • Lunch allowance
  • Staff discounts on gym memberships, travel and computer hardware and software
  • Annual travel insurance
  • Bikes for commuting to work
  • Childcare vouchers

Last but not least you can hope for a small cash bonus. GradAustralia’s survey found this averaged $285 a year.

Straight from the horses’ mouth

GradAustralia asked some grads working at a couple of the bigger construction firms what they thought about how they were looked after. Here, in summary, is what they had to say.

AECOM: Pay is a little lower than the industry average. However, there is a well-defined process in place that allows those in the grad program to get pay rises if they achieve certain goals. Formal yearly bonuses are modest or non-existent. Those who go above and beyond the call of duty, or generate positive client feedback, may receive a small cash reward. Benefits are modest and have been pruned back in recent years but occasional breakfasts, lunches, dinners and drinks nights are put on for staff. The company has arrangements in place that result in discounts at various retailers, travel businesses and cinema chains. AECOM will also pay for taxis, moving expenses and education costs.   

Lendlease: Pay is above the industry average. Bonuses are provided once a year and determined by business unit performance then individual performance. The bonus policy is transparent and relates to goals set and achieved during the year. You should expect to work significant unpaid overtime. The company invests in its people with professional and personal development courses, conferences and other opportunities. If you need to relocate, your moving expenses are covered. The office kitchen is well stocked with healthy food and there are regular social events where snacks and drinks are provided. After-hours taxi rides home are covered and gym membership and health fund costs are subsidised. There are also discounts available from certain businesses, such as GoGet. On top of the standard leave allowances, staff also get three ‘wellbeing days’ each year. There’s also the opportunity to buy into the business through an Employee Share Acquisition Plan.

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