The world-class Australian education sector is widely considered a vital resource to Australian society and has also become a $20 billion export industry that attracts international students from far and wide. Australia boasts a well-developed education system that includes preschools, primary and secondary schools, universities and other tertiary institutions (such as TAFEs), and a range of programs that support adult education. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that around 276,329 teachers work in Australia’s school system, along with 95,995 administrative and clerical staff.
There are more than 1,200 educational institutions in Australia, offering around 22,000 courses on subjects ranging from engineering to cake decoration. While the funding, operation, and regulation of educational institutions are generally left to Australia’s states and territories, all qualifications must meet the requirements of the federal Australian Qualifications Framework if they are to receive accreditation.
The education and training sector involves teachers in elementary, primary, and high schools, as well as academics and university staff, TAFE instructors, and a range of people in administrative and support roles. Generally speaking, education and training employees can be split into two groups: teachers (including primary, secondary, and tertiary educators), and other professionals (including administrative and support roles). For more information about the range of jobs available in the Australian education sector, see this overview of occupations [insert link].
Staff training, or in-house training, is a vital contributor to professional development, and organisations usually provide in one of two ways: they hire people qualified to oversee staff training or they rely on third parties with training experience.
Broadly speaking, careers in the education sector are split into four categories: those in the public education system, those in the private education system, careers that provide support (administrative, managerial, or otherwise) within educational organisations, and academic roles.
If you’d like to work as a teacher, you will need to meet the academic requirements for employment as a teacher in your state. Generally, this involves the completion of a relevant Bachelor degree (a process that usually takes four years) or enrolment in a postgraduate Master of Education. Working teachers are then expected to satisfy continuing education requirements throughout their careers.
By default, all public sector appointments are merit-based, with schools generally expected to advertise all non-casual positions that will be occupied for more than twelve months (the specific requirements change from state to state). This applies to both teaching and administrative staff. Independent and private schools have a lot more autonomy when it comes to recruitment, and will often advertise vacancies on job boards or in newspapers. You can also contact them directly to discuss career opportunities.
An academic career often begins with short-term or casual positions as a tutor. To secure these positions you must be a standout performer as a student, and willing to pursue graduate research opportunities. This means highly competitive marks (ideally including some academic merit prizes), strong relationships with faculty and successful admission to an honours program or doctorate (many of which require prospective applicants to possess a distinction average and several references). You must then continue to distinguish yourself through excellence in teaching and research so that you can pursue new academic opportunities as they arise.
Positions in vocational education and training are generally awarded on the basis of accreditation and industry experience. Many of these roles are associated with Tertiary and Further Education (TAFE) institutions and tend to focus on teaching the skills necessary to succeed in hospitality, event management, retail, tourism, and various trades (such as carpentry and plumbing, both of which are studied alongside the completion of an apprenticeship).
If you’d like to work in professional training—that is, training people who have already started their careers with the goal of helping them perform better—it’s generally advisable that your study business or human relations at a tertiary level. This will allow you to collect much-needed experience. In-house trainers usually focus on a specific area of expertise or, instead, offer general instruction in topics such as leadership, time management, sales, safety, and the use of various business applications.
An ongoing trend is the rise of online educational programs, with many colleges pushing content to the web, allowing students and teachers to learn in virtually any location. This has created a new market for teaching jobs with private companies, such as The Teaching Company and Coursera, which record and distribute digital lectures.
Teaching has traditionally been considered a relatively stable profession—the school is, after all, compulsory. However, recent studies have shown, quite alarmingly, that teaching has a high attrition rate— around 30% to 50% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years. Fortunately, the government has responded with a range of policy initiatives designed to create a more supportive, creative, and innovative education system.
This is partly because, as existing teachers retire and the population expands, Australia’s education system will need to grow, attracting and retaining excellent teachers. The Department of Jobs and Small Business predicts that the education system will need to hire an extra 16,400 primary teachers and 9800 secondary teachers in the years ahead.
The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) identified a shortage of teachers in secondary subjects including IT, physics, mathematics, general science, chemistry and biology, with 25 per cent of students in year 7 to 10 taught maths by a teacher not trained in the subject area. If you're studying STEM, this shortage will make a STEM background extremely appealing to schools and recruiters.
If you enjoy working as a teacher—and many do find it immensely rewarding—there are many opportunities for career progression. You can pursue promotion—either as a headteacher or a member of the school’s senior administrative staff, including vice-principals and principals—or transfer to other schools in the pursuit of more challenging or appealing opportunities.
Outside of teaching, career progression opportunities include promotion within an educational department, involvement in the regulation of the education sector, and advocacy for a range of educational organisations.
Salaries in this sector vary widely based on one’s position, experience, and employer. However, the Australian government’s JobOutlook website enables us to survey the average pay for a range of common careers paths. The following figures refer to pre-tax income per week.
Average weekly pay (before tax)
|Future growth outlook|
|Child care centre managers||$1,272||Very strong|
|Early childhood teachers||$1,488||Very strong|
|ICT support technicians||$1,498||Very strong|
|Middle school teachers||$1,954||Stable|
|Primary school teachers||$1,801||Strong|
|Private tutors and teachers||$1,122||Moderate|
|Secondary school teachers||$1,914||Moderate|
|Special education teachers||$1,914||Moderate|
|Training and development
|University lecturers and
|Vocational education teacher||$1,790||Decline|