The COVID pandemic has had a huge effect on many aspects of our lives, with employment being a key area of change and uncertainty for many. Almost every industry, organisation, and worker across Australia was affected in some way. While life may not be completely back to normal, the Australian economy continues to bounce back, as we continue to have a better handle on how to manage community safety. With that in mind, we ‘ve put the spotlight on the top paying jobs in 2021 across various industries. How has this changed due to the pandemic, and what does the future look like?


In the top spot – the dependable and essential field of medicine

The healthcare system in Australia is ranked among the top 10 in the world. The last 12 months have shown how critical a robust healthcare system is, and Australia is blessed with some of the best. According to the most recent income data from the  Australian Tax Office (ATO), healthcare professionals are amongst the country’s biggest earners. This 2018 data is likely to remain unaffected by COVID-19. Here’s how they rank:


  1. Surgeons – around 4,000 Australians are employed as surgeons, with an average taxable income of $400,000.
  2. Anaesthetists – there are more than 3,000 Australian anaesthetists earning an average taxable income of $360,000.
  3. Internal medicine specialists – there are over 8,500 of these highly trained specialists in Australia, earning an average taxable income of $300,000 annually.
  4. Psychiatrists – the need for mental health workers is on the rise, currently employing around 2,800 Australians with an average taxable wage of $210,000.
  5. Other medical practitioners – this covers specialist medical professionals such as obstetricians, dermatologists and ophthalmologists. There are over 28,000 workers in this category, earning an average taxable income of $210,000.


Australia's Top Paying Industries surgeon


At an all-time high – Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

The data and technology industries are booming here at home and around the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this even further, with sectors like e-commerce surpassing levels not expected until at least 2025. With many of us swapping the boardroom for the lounge room, demand for cyber security, connectivity and cloud services are on the rise. Experts are predicting our online shopping habits are here to stay, as is flexibility around remote working – which is good news for those employed in this sector. Specialists in ICT can expect the following average taxable incomes:


  1. ICT systems architect – a complex role involving the building, designing, and testing of an entire infrastructure of an organisation with an internal network. ICT system architects command an average taxable income of $140,000.
  2. ICT manager – often providing a conduit between business development and technical expertise, ICT managers can expect an average taxable income of $125,000.
  3. IT security architect – a pivotal role involving the protection of infrastructure and data within an organisation. IT security architects receive an average taxable income of approximately $124,000.
  4. Cloud engineer – a role that is hugely in demand as more organisations enlist cloud-based systems. Cloud engineers are responsible for assessing organisations current infrastructure right through to implementing and maintaining a move. They command a taxable income around the $112,000
  5. Data scientist – responsible for gathering, analysing, and interpreting large volumes of data and translating this into valuable information. This role is becoming critical in almost all industry sectors. A data scientist can expect a taxable income around $100,000.


The jury’s not out – the legal sector

Salaries in the legal sector vary greatly based on experience and education, but in general, it’s an incredibly high-paying industry. Private and in-house law is the best paying niche, and according to this report from recruiter Michael Page, general counsel is the most lucrative job title in Australia with an average salary range between $300,000 and $500,000. The position of a judge is also one of the top paying legal professions – particularly if you’re female – it’s the highest paying job in Australia for females with an average taxable income of just under $395,000. The average salary in the legal sector sits at around $110,000, but as years of experience climb, so do the salaries.


Diverse and secure – engineering

In June 2020, the Australian Government announced a $1.5 billion infrastructure stimulus package aimed to support jobs and help stem the economic impact of COVID-19. As a result, the already strong engineering sector (which saw an increase in average wages in the 12 months to April 2020), will continue to grow. Skilled engineers in the education, mining, resources, energy, and construction industries dominate on the salary front. The 5 highest paying roles for engineers are:


  1. Education and training – experienced engineers that move into education and training can expect to earn a total remuneration package around the $200,000
  2. Gas supply engineers – working in the gas and oil field is constantly evolving as automation and data analytics come to the fore. Engineers in the gas supply sector can expect a total remuneration package of around $190,000.
  3. Information media and telecommunication engineers – a relatively niche industry specialising in data communication and networked systems. Total remuneration packages for this role average around $170,000.
  4. Mining engineers –mining is big business in Australia, with over 8,000 engineers employed in the industry. It’s been called ‘a bastion of stability and profitability’ during the pandemic and remains the largest sector in Australia. Mining engineers can expect an average annual salary around the $165,000
  5. Engineering managers – responsible for administering, planning, and reviewing operations, there are around 25,000 workers in Australia employed in this role. Engineering managers have an average taxable income of approximately $145,000.


Somewhat tumultuous – sales

There’s still big money to be made as a sales director, but in times of economic turmoil, it all depends on what you’re selling. Those working in travel or hospitality related industries have felt a pinch, whereas sales directors in industries like those mentioned above are still in hot demand, as are sales roles in property and real estate. The current average national salary for a national sales director in Australia sits at just over $170,000.

Bucking the pandemic predictions – property

While not quite making it into the salary top spots, employment in the property and real estate sector continues to boom as the market shows no signs of slowing. Amidst speculation of a major downturn due to COVID-19, low interest rates and high demand have led to Australian house prices surging by 2.1% in February – the largest monthly increase in 17 years. So, where’s the money to be made in this sector?


  1. Real estate agents – involved in the buying and selling process for property, the majority of their income comes from commission earned from sales or leases. Commission is typically between one to five percent of the overall sales price of a property and earning potential is heavily dependent on the area they are based in. Top real estate agents in Australia can earn above $150,000 per year.
  2. Property developer – developers get paid by maximising the potential of under-utilised land. For example, purchasing a vacant block and developing it into a multi-unit site. Expert developers aim for between 15-20% return on their investment, which leads to an average annual salary of $115,000.
  3. Marketing manager – real estate marketing managers are responsible for generating business for a real estate company through branding and promotion. A successful marketing manager in this sector can expect an average income of $115,000


Australia's Top Paying Industries real estate agent


While the impact of COVID-19 was felt in a lot of industries, many of the top paying roles remained stable or were accelerated as the result of the pandemic. Another outcome of COVID-19 is that we’ve moved to new ways of working, which many of us are keen to hold on to. Workplace flexibility has become an important part of our remuneration packages, and while salaries are still a crucial consideration, loving what you do and how you do it is key. That way, it won’t feel like work at all!

The information used to prepare the Australia’s top paying jobs 2021 is drawn from several sources including the Australia in the global economy | Australian Taxation Office ( If a particular job is of interest to you, we recommend you conduct your own independent research on top paying jobs in your state or territory.



The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.