FURTHERING your education isn't cheap. A university degree can ultimately cost you tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees and income forgone while studying.
Should that put you off? Absolutely not. Trotting off to university was one of the best decisions I made, not just from a career perspective but from what it taught me about myself, how I think and how to approach challenges.
While the cost of study might be daunting when you add it up, the career benefits far outweigh any perceived negatives.
Generally, you'll earn more with a qualification than without, while the qualification itself shows you can commit to, and complete large-scale tasks. It shows initiative and drive.
If you're still put off by the idea of hefty fees, don't be. There are support mechanisms in place to ensure fees don't get in the way of you attaining your career goals.
If you're headed to university, most institutions offer a wide range of scholarships and bursaries - these can be substantial amounts of money, disbursed over the course of your studies. A scholarship can often mean the difference between studying or not - it can allow a student to focus solely on their degree and not have to take on part-time work.
Most importantly, tuition fees don't have to be paid up front. The Federal Government's HECS-HELP scheme allows students to defer fee payment until they've completed their study and are earning a decent wage ($47,195 for the 2011-2012 financial year). If you never earn above that threshold, you don't repay a cent - but that very much defeats the purpose of studying in the first place. You want your income to grow, studying gives you that potential.
A HECS-HELP loan is interest free, although it is CPI-indexed so grows a little each year. Repayments are made automatically as part of your PAYG tax instalments that your employer withholds at the end of each pay period.
Voluntary repayments of $500 or more also attract a discount of 10% when paid upfront at the start of a study period.
The FEE-HELP scheme provides similar assistance for postgraduate students.
You don't notice the repayments - and better still, once the debt is repaid, it's like giving yourself a pay increase.
Teaching remains a good option
IF YOU'RE thinking about studying to become a teacher, you've timed it pretty well - calls are growing for classroom teachers to be paid more than $100,000 a year, in a move to attract higher quality candidates to the profession.
While Australia's junior teachers are among the best paid in the world, business leaders, education experts and one of the architects of the Federal Government's Gonski school funding review are calling for a dramatic increase in salary for senior frontline staff, in a bid to help Australian students bridge the gap with their counterparts in other countries.
The ACT has recently pushed pay for its top classroom teachers past the 100k mark. However, this applies to only 1% one percent of the workforce, who earn on average 25% more than their colleagues.
Gonski review panellist Carmen Lawrence said improving the salaries of teachers who remain in the classroom, rather than taking on administrative or executive roles to earn more, would improve school outcomes.
The average teacher salary in Australia ranges from $60,000 to $75,000, peaking at about $90,000. OECD data shows teachers in top performing countries can as much as triple their pay over the years they work.