If you like working with people, have a passion for making a difference in their lives and want a rewarding career, a job in health services and rehabilitation might be for you. The healthcare industry is very big in Australia, and there are many different job opportunities across different areas of health care.
The courses and employment opportunities available will depend on the level of qualification you complete. There are three qualification levels in health services and rehabilitation:
There is a wide range of Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses available in the health services field, including certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas. Courses train graduates to support health professionals such as nurses, optometrists, dietitians and pharmacists. There are some general VET qualifications that train graduates to work in a range of healthcare settings, including courses in allied health assistance, health services assistance and health support services. Other qualifications prepare graduates to work in specialised roles, including courses in anaesthetic technology, home and community care, mental health, nutrition and dietetic assistance, pathology, pharmacy support, optical technology and remedial massage.
In addition, there are VET courses in the health services field that prepare graduates to work in administrative roles in the healthcare field, such as work health and safety, health administration and population health. Natural therapies courses are also available, which include disciplines such as aromatherapy, homoeopathy, reflexology, naturopathy and traditional Chinese medicine.
Generally, VET qualifications are more practical than degrees in the higher education sector. If you are looking for a course with an academic focus or want to enter a more senior role, you may consider studying in the higher education sector. VET qualifications can provide a good pathway into undergraduate health services degrees.
Rehabilitation, like a number of other professional fields, is only taught at undergraduate or postgraduate degree level, but VET courses in health services can be a very good pathway into the field. See Undergraduate study in health services and rehabilitation for more information.
Applicants must meet academic and English language requirements, which vary between courses, institutions and qualification levels. For more information about VET courses and entry requirements, see Vocational Education.
VET courses in health services can be studied at TAFE institutes, private colleges and universities with a TAFE department. Some private colleges even have a special focus on the health services field. If you are thinking about progressing to an undergraduate health degree after completing a VET qualification, enquire with institutions about their pathway schemes to see whether you will be awarded credit for your studies.
The course you choose will usually depend on your particular interests within the healthcare field, such as whether you would like to gain a general set of skills (through a certificate III in health services support, for example) or skills that are related to a particular type of work (such as a certificate IV in optical technology). You might also consider whether you are interested in mainstream or alternative health care.
The facilities and equipment offered by institutions are particularly important, so we recommend doing your research. In the practical disciplines, look for work experience opportunities (such as clinical placements and on-campus clinics that allow you to practise treating patients).
Health services and rehabilitation is a popular field at undergraduate level, with more than 45,000 students completing courses in the field across the country.
There are many health services course options, from general bachelor degrees in health science and applied science that allow students to explore a range of disciplines and complete a specialisation or ‘major’ in the discipline of their choice, to specialised courses that train students for careers in specific areas such as community health, disability studies, human movement, nutrition and dietetics, and paramedic practice. There are some highly specialised options available, such as medical radiation science and health services management, as well as many options in the alternative health disciplines, including homoeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Double degrees are a popular option, with combinations available in fields such as business and management, humanities and social sciences, and the sciences.
The rehabilitation field includes courses in audiology, chiropractic, physiotherapy, podiatry, occupational therapy, optometry and speech pathology. These areas may be offered within a general bachelor degree (such as a bachelor degree in health science or applied science) or as a specialised degree (a bachelor of speech pathology, for example). These areas are highly regulated, requiring a recognised degree in order to practise. A new degree structure, which has already been established at some institutions, has the potential to become more common in the rehabilitation field in the future. The structure follows a US-style model where undergraduates enter a general degree (perhaps in health science or science) and then progress to a postgraduate qualification in rehabilitation. Some education providers offer combined degrees that allow students to graduate with an undergraduate and postgraduate qualification, such as bachelor of health science/master of speech pathology. See Postgraduate study in health services and rehabilitation for more information.
Applicants must meet academic and English language requirements, which vary between courses, institutions and qualification levels. Some undergraduate courses in health services and rehabilitation require the completion of prerequisite studies in science in secondary school. For more information about undergraduate courses and entry requirements, see Higher Education — Undergraduate.
Undergraduate degrees in health services are offered at universities, private colleges and selected TAFE institutes, although some fields (such as paramedic practice) are only available at universities.Undergraduate degrees in rehabilitation are only offered by universities due to the regulated nature of the field. While general courses in health science are available at many institutions around the country, courses in rehabilitation or highly specialised health services fields (such as paramedic practice) may be offered by fewer institutions.
The course you choose will depend on your area of interest and your career goals. If you are unsure about which area of science you are interested in, you might consider a general course (a bachelor of health science, for example) that will allow you to sample a range of science fields. Many students choose to complete a general degree and then specialise in a particular health service or rehabilitation field through postgraduate study. If you know the specific area that interests you, you may wish to select one of the more specific courses (a bachelor of dietetics, for example). You should also consider the type of work you would like to do, such as whether you want to work directly with patients or behind the scenes.
As in other practical fields, students in the health services and rehabilitation benefit from gaining work experience during their studies. Many courses, particularly rehabilitation, have work experience included in the curriculum through compulsory clinical placements. In other courses, you may be expected to seek out your own opportunities. If this is the case, look at the level of support you will get from your institution to obtain a placement. It is also important to check that the institutions you are considering have relevant facilities and equipment to help you gain the skills required in your career (such as on-campus clinics, simulated workplace settings and industry-standard equipment).
Although many postgraduate courses in health services and rehabilitation are only offered to graduates of related undergraduate degrees, there are also programs that are available to students with a qualification in another field.
There is a wide range of postgraduate coursework degrees available in the health services field, including graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, masters degrees by coursework and professional doctorates. Degrees are available in areas such as dietetics, medical radiation science, naturopathy, nutrition and public health, which allow graduates of general undergraduate degrees (a bachelor of health science, for example) to specialise in a field of interest. You may be able to find a degree that focuses on your chosen specialisation (a master of dietetics, for example), or you may be able to study your specialisation within a more general science postgraduate degree (such as a master of health science). Degrees are also available in niche areas (such as epidemiology, gerontology, palliative care, wound care and medical statistics), which are designed to allow practising healthcare professionals to develop skills in new fields. Courses in health administration, health management and health promotion are also popular choices for health care professionals wanting to qualify for strategic and management positions. In addition, students can complete a master of business administration (MBA) specialising in health management.
There is also a wide range of postgraduate coursework degrees available in the rehabilitation field — mostly at the masters by coursework and professional doctorate level. Courses are available in areas such as audiology, chiropractic, physiotherapy, podiatry, occupational therapy, optometry and speech pathology. Many of these courses are designed to allow graduates of general undergraduate degrees in fields such as science and health science to specialise in the rehabilitation field of their choice and qualify for professional practice.
Research degrees are also available, including masters by research and research doctorates, with around one in ten students completing research each year.
Applicants must meet academic and English language requirements, which vary between courses, institutions and qualification levels. If you do not have a previous degree in your chosen specialisation, check course handbooks carefully to make sure that you are eligible for entry into the course. For more information about postgraduate courses and entry requirements, see Higher Education — Postgraduate.
Postgraduate degrees in the health services field are offered at universities and some private colleges. Due to the strict regulation of the rehabilitation profession, postgraduate courses in rehabilitation are only offered by universities. While general courses in health science are available at many institutions around the country, courses in rehabilitation or highly specialised health services fields (such as gerontology) are offered by fewer institutions.
The course you choose will depend on your previous qualifications, work experience and interests within the field. If you are considering research, it is best to select an institution that has expertise in your specific field, including connections to the industry. For example, you may consider institutions that have good relationships with local hospitals or rehabilitation centres or those that are known for producing research projects in your discipline. You should also investigate potential supervisors.
Work experience is very important in the health services and rehabilitation fields. If you are completing a postgraduate course in order to qualify for a particular health profession, you should ensure that plenty of practical experience is offered. Many courses have practical placements built into the curriculum, but in those that don’t, students are generally required to organise their own placements. Look out for on-campus equipment and facilities that are relevant to your discipline (such as on-campus clinics, simulated workplace settings and industry-standard equipment).
The health services and rehabilitation field provides a broad range of exciting and rewarding career opportunities. Graduates can find themselves working in many different types of healthcare settings, including hospitals, aged-care facilities, community health clinics, rehabilitation centres, sports clinics, fitness centres, and even in schools.
Depending on the qualification completed, graduates may work in roles that deliver, or assist to deliver, health services to patients (such as podiatrists, ambulance officers and pathology workers; roles that advise and educate people about health and wellbeing matters (including areas such as health promotion, public health, and occupational health and safety); or roles that focus on the administrative or management side of the field. The skills gained from a health services qualification can also be used outside of the industry, such as in a sales or administrative role.
The career opportunities available to graduates depend on the qualification level completed. While most VET graduates find work supporting and assisting health professionals, graduates of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are qualified as health care professionals and are able to pursue management roles. There are also many jobs that are highly regulated, where a bachelor degree is the minimum qualification for entry (radiation therapy, for example).