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Which careers can you pursue with a Bachelor of Arts?

Sarah Blythe

Bachelor of Arts degrees have an undeserved reputation for representing a sort of career sacrifice: sure you’ll broaden your mind with challenging ideas, but you won’t pick up vocational skills in the same way that, say, a commerce or law student might.

STEM degrees get all the glory. 

Over the last two decades, especially, career counsellors, governments, and parents alike have encouraged ambitious students to study science, technology, engineering, or mathematics at university with the hopes that earning a degree in one of those fields will prove the gateway to a stable, well-paying career.

And for many students, that can indeed be a good option.

But the truth is that roughly 66 per cent of Australian employed graduates hold a Bachelor of Arts degree — including a majority of workers at the 100 largest public companies — rather than pursuing a heavily-quantitative course of study or another more specialized major like commerce, law, or fine arts. And if you’re one of those students yourself (or a fresh grad with a BA), great!

You’ll find that lots of doors can open for you, too.

(We should note here that we’re writing for an Australian audience, specifically. BA degree programs in other parts of the world commonly include the option to major in science or mathematics in addition to traditional liberal arts fields like literature, language, social science, or philosophy. Still, wherever you’re located, if you’ve earned a BA in one of the latter fields, we hope you’ll find this article useful!)

We’ll take you on a tour of some of the most common sectors that grads with BAs go on to work in, highlighting some of the top employers in those sectors that you may wish to consider. We’ll also give you some suggestions for specific roles you may wish to pursue to help you kickstart your job search.

Let’s dive in!

What are the top 5 sectors can I work in with a BA degree?

Here at GradAustralia, we strive to incorporate data into our work so that you can feel more confident that you’re getting advice you can rely on. To write this article, we’ve gleaned data from our survey of over 10,000 fresh grads to find out which sectors, specifically, grads with BAs end up working in.

This is what we’ve discovered about which sectors tend to draw in fresh grads with BAs, including the top five:

These are the most common sectors that fresh grads with BA degrees end up working in. Source: Prosple’s survey of over 10,000 fresh grads.

  1. Technology — 21 per cent
  2. Government and public service — 17 per cent
  3. Retail, sales, and consumer goods — 11 per cent
  4. Accounting and advisory — 11 per cent
  5. Banking and financial services — 9 per cent

Together, these five sectors account for 69 per cent of all fresh grads with a BA degree. We’ll explore each one in order.

1. Technology

Whether you find the tech sector exciting or an agent of the apocalypse, there’s no denying it can be lucrative. Join the right startup at the right time — or prove yourself at an established tech giant — and you’ll find yourself making a comfortable living, if not more.

Now, unless you’ve taught yourself coding skills on the side, you’re probably not going to be involved directly in creating apps or software. But tech also has a huge need for people who can do things like project management, marketing, sales, or business operations roles — and those are all options for someone with a BA. Tech companies are just that — companies — and need smart, capable people skilled in critical thinking, analysis, and telling stories in order to grow.

All of that is well within the liberal arts wheelhouse. Plus, if you’re willing to pursue continuing education opportunities to hone your skill set (something we see as essential to success in the modern workforce), then you’ll be able to combine an academic background that taught you how to think with vocational training in specific business-oriented skills into one formidable package.

Of course, if you want that big tech salary, you’ll probably have to earn it over time. The average starting pay for fresh grads in the sector is $65,956 (not terrible for a graduate job, but not exactly the stuff of Silicon Valley dreams, either). If you choose to work for a startup, you may earn even less — albeit with the chance to receive equity compensation that may (emphasis on may) pay off big down the road.

Top tech employers for BA grads

Perhaps you’ve heard of them:

Bonus employer: Canva. In addition to being one of Australia’s best-known startups, Canva recently earned a $60 billion valuation and also clocks in as the top-ranked employer on our list of best companies to work for!

Which tech firms are hiring grads with BAs — right now?

Check out active job listings in the tech sector that are specifically hiring grads with BAs.

2. Government and public service

It may not be as glamorous as tech. But you can build a stable, long-lasting career working in government — and maybe do some real good for your community while you’re at it.

Because government jobs can range from everything like serving as a staffer at an embassy overseas to working for a municipal sanitation department, if you want to pursue work in the field, you’ll have a great many options to choose from. With your BA, though, you’ll be especially qualified for jobs that emphasize the ability to think clearly and critically about the issue or problem at hand and then write reports or white papers to help develop policies aimed at delivering solutions.

If you want to work in government, but don’t have a specific career path in mind yet, that’s okay. Many grads get their first government jobs specifically through graduate programs that offer the opportunity to explore different roles within a department.

The bad news is your compensation will be more average than thrilling. Grads starting a new job in government can expect an average salary of $65,859 per our survey data. 

However, the good news is that you won’t have to work the outrageous hours that your peers in fields like consulting or finance may suffer through! Most government jobs require a standard 40-hour work week.

Top government employers for BA grads

You’ll find opportunities throughout all levels of government, including these top options:

Which government departments are hiring grads with BAs — right now?

See the agencies that are actively hiring for grads with your qualifications!

3. Retail, sales, and consumer goods

Like government, this is a sector that covers a vast array of possible roles. And while many of those are poor-paying retail positions — working the floor at a clothing store or the cash register at a pharmacy, for example — your BA will give you the opportunity to pursue corporate jobs that offer both higher initial compensation and a long-term career trajectory.

As a BA working for a retail or consumer goods company, for example, the creative skills you developed while writing more than your fair share of term papers during your time studying at university will be especially useful in positions like marketing. There, you’ll be able to put your writing ability, communication skills, and understanding of what motivates others to use crafting campaigns designed to attract buyers for your firm's products. 

And if you’ve got an especially outgoing personality and love talking to other people, you could do very well in a commission-based sales role.

The average starting salary for grads working in retail is a little higher than the sectors we’ve covered so far — $67,354. Plus, you’ll be putting yourself in a position to climb the corporate ladder and make significantly more — or learn enough to one day become an entrepreneur and build your own brand.

Top retail, sales, and consumer goods employers for BA grads

Work for major brands, often with international reach:

Which consumer-facing companies are hiring fresh grads with BAs — right now?

Find out by browsing our live listings for the sector — refined just for grads with BAs!

4. Accounting and advisory

You may be thinking that the accounting sector is the last place that a BA would make for a welcome hire. But you’d be wrong — because accounting isn’t just about crunching numbers.

It’s about using them to tell stories.

In fact, creative thinking and a strong writing ability are both essential parts of the process of translating a vast spreadsheet full of data into a coherent report that executives can use to make decisions. Working in areas like risk management, mergers and acquisitions, or even auditing, a skilled BA grad would be ideally positioned to interview stakeholders, collaborate with more quantitatively-minded team members, and shape information into a clear narrative that makes sense to someone who isn’t an accountant.

Now, you won’t necessarily make much money in this field right out of the gate. The average starting salary for a fresh grad working in accounting is just $59,945 — one of the lowest out of any sector that we surveyed.

However, accounting jobs — especially for major companies like the Big Four — can offer you a great deal of opportunity if you do well in your role. Working at one of these giant professional services firms will help you make contacts, become well-versed in how big companies work, and grow within a world where top performers can make very comfortable salaries, indeed.

Top accounting employers for BA grads

Write your own ticket by doing well at one of the Big Four companies:

Which accounting firms are looking for grads with BAs — right now?

Find out by scrolling through our live listing of accounting and advisory companies hiring BA graduates!

5. Banking and financial services

Much like accounting, banking or finance may not feel like a natural fit for a grad with a BA. But the sector is huge — and offers a proportionate number of options.

For example, while you may think of banking as being all about high finance, the reality is that the traders you see glamorized in films and on television make up only a tiny percentage of industry roles. Far more common are positions like local bank branch manager, business analyst, or even sales — all of which could be a great fit for someone with the strong communication skills you’ve learned pursuing your degree. 

In banking, you’ll likely start out making a salary on the low end for graduate jobs — an average of $59,420 in our survey. But as with most of the sectors on this list, you’ll be joining an industry that gives high-performers the ability to make significantly more once they’ve established themselves.

And the upside of the fact that you (probably) won’t be taking a trading job? You’ll likely be able to work much more regular hours — to the point where you may even find yourself making more per hour than a fellow grad who does score a trading position.

Top banking and finance employers for BA grads

Succeed in the right role at one of these companies and you’ll be on your way to wealth:

Which banking and finance firms are hiring grads with BAs — right now?

See who’s actively looking for grads with BAs!

What are some specific roles I could consider?

There are many jobs you can pursue after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. 

Some of these roles will draw on the skills you’ve earned while completing a particular major (for example, archival work might be particularly familiar to history majors). Others will take advantage of the generic skills possessed by BA graduates, such as the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and perform research. 

Careers in this category include:

  • Government roles (generally via recruitment into a graduate program)
  • Non-government organization roles (for example, policy development, administrative support, and advocacy)
  • Higher education or private education roles (like tutoring, providing student support, or working in professional services)
  • Media and communications organizations (such as public relations person, or film or television development)
  • Advertising (for example, copywriter, content writer, or social media manager)
  • Arts and cultural organizations (gallery assistants, public programs, and so on)  

Careers that require graduate coursework

The Bachelor of Arts provides you with the necessary academic and intellectual foundation for graduate coursework in disciplines as varied as law, medicine, teaching, journalism, international relations, and media. 

Note that the more technical of these, such as law and medicine, may have additional entry requirements (for example, you will be required to sit a special entrance examination for medicine). Graduate coursework ranges in duration from one to two years (for a vocational master's degree) to four or five years (for a graduate MD). 

Roles in this category include:

  • Doctor
  • Urban planner
  • Lawyer
  • Librarian
  • Diplomat
  • Teacher
  • Banker
  • Curator

Careers in research

If you wish to continue exploring the subject of your undergraduate degree, or hope to begin a career in academia, then you may wish to undertake further research. Generally, the first step after the completion of a Bachelor of Arts is enrolment in a one-year honours program. This may be followed by a master’s degree or doctorate. 

Strong performance in these research degrees can prepare you for a career as a teacher, academic, or consultant. It can also allow you to submit more competitive applications for jobs outside your field of research.

Arts graduate stories

Check out these career stories from graduates with a Bachelor of Arts:

More popular employers hiring BA graduates

Check out some additional top employers who are accepting applications from candidates with a Bachelor of Arts:

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your BA makes you an also-ran

Look, we get it — more technically-minded degrees have a lot of value. But the world needs people who know how to think, communicate, and be creative.

Now, perhaps, more than ever.

Spend some time thinking about which of the options we’ve covered on this list appeal to you. Then go out and see what you can find. Remember, too, that your general intellectual curiosity and ability to make connections across disciplines will also serve you well should you choose to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur one day. 

Keep maintaining the open-mindedness that you’ve developed studying for your degree and allow yourself to become a lifelong learner and you’ll be amazed at what doors can open for you.

We wish you luck!

Who’s looking for grads with BAs?

Find out by searching open graduate jobs on Prosple! You’ll enjoy:

  • Job listings only for fresh grads and students
  • Unlimited free applications
  • Fresh opportunities posted daily
  • Tailored searches that highlight your chosen sector and qualifications

Start connecting with top employers today!