The health sector is Australia’s largest employer, providing jobs to about 12.7 per cent of the population. It comprises a large private health industry as well as Medicare, Australia’s universal healthcare system. Together, they include a vast network of health providers, hospitals, medical facilities, patients, and related service providers. The health sector is expected to grow as it adapts to the needs of Australia’s population, which is growing larger and, on average, older. Consequently, medical professionals are considered to be of great social value: they’re training is substantially supported by taxpayers, and they are seen as contributing various essential skills to their communities.
The Australian health sector now includes medical practitioners, nurses, allied and other health professionals, hospitals, clinics and government and non-government agencies. They offer a range of services, including hospital-based treatment, rehabilitation, palliative care, emergency services, primary health care, and various speciality services. Some examples of jobs within the health sector include aged and disabled carers, anaesthetists, complementary health therapists, counsellors, dentists, general practitioners, Indigenous health workers, medical technicians, midwives, psychologists, registered nurses, and surgeons.
The health sector is widespread, employing people in both rural and regional areas and in every Australian state and territory. Of course, health sector workers don’t only work in hospitals. You’ll also find them working in medical practices, community health services, schools, hospices, prisons, private clinics, dental surgeries, and more.
Health care employees assume a huge amount of responsibility, so it’s no surprise that the first category of career entry paths in this sector includes those which are stringently regulated. The largest healthcare professions are nursing, medical practice, psychology, pharmacy and physiotherapy – and each of them requires the acquisition of appropriate credentials via an approved degree. For example, if you are in high school and wish to become a doctor, you can consider taking an undergraduate admissions test (UMAT) before applying for accredited degree programs that are usually five years long. This is followed by an internship, a residency period, and then an extended period of specialisation. During their careers, doctors, like many other professionals, are required to meet continuing education requirements. Alternatively, you may have completed an undergraduate degree, in which case you can complete a postgraduate admissions test (such as the GMAT in Australia) before entering a four-year program. This too is followed by a structured period of training and specialisation. Like doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, dentists, occupational therapists, and midwives all have
regulated entry paths.
The health sector is widely predicted to grow at a fast pace over the next half-century. The Department of Health predicts that tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of jobs, will be created in community services, aged care, and other branches of health care due to Australia’s aging population and the national disability insurance scheme. The good news then is that job opportunities in this sector abound, and there is a range of supporting initiatives designed to encourage people to enter and graduate from, health-related degrees and training programs. Once within the health sector, there are a variety of career paths available to graduates, from assuming supervisory or teaching positions as a doctor or nurse to running a busy medical centre. Whatever the role, this is almost certain – your skills will be in high demand.
This is something of an irrelevant question when it comes to the health sector – most of its skilled or ‘knowledge worker’ jobs will require you to have a STEM background, be it in medicine, science or engineering. If you already have a STEM background but wish to train in a different STEM field – for example, if you graduated from biology but wish to study nursing – you will likely find that many of your existing skills transfer across. Other skilled and unskilled careers in the health sector – from project manager to switchboard operator – mightn’t require a STEM background, but possessing one can still be advantageous when making job applications. For example, you might emphasise your procedural and analytical thinking skills when applying to work as a practice manager.
Average graduate salaries in the health industry range from $56,000 to about $79,000, depending on one’s speciality area and employer.
Popular degrees sought by this industry include medicine and medical sciences, psychology, sports science, chemical engineering, biochemistry, biology, chemistry and molecular biology.
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