Healthcare & Social Assistance
If a passion for helping others and a focus on encouraging and promoting health behaviours sounds like you – look no further than a career in Healthcare!
The Healthcare and Social Assistance industry is the largest employing industry in Australia. In 2020, over 1.7 million people were employed in the sector, which is projected to increase to more than 1.9 million by 2024. This growth is attributed to an ageing and growing population, increasing demand for childcare, home and community-based care.
Careers in the sector range from being highly specialised such as Anaesthetists, Optometrists and Physiotherapists to skills such as Clinical Nurses and Psychologists, to entry-level such as Personal Care Workers, Aged Care Workers, and Administrators.
You’ll often work as part of a multidisciplinary team with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors, therapists and social workers, and will also liaise closely with patients’ families and/or carers.
Working in healthcare and social assistance can be physically and emotionally demanding. You’ll often be frontline helping people at their most vulnerable, but seeing that the care you have provided has improved health, recovery, or reduced suffering can be incredibly satisfying.
The field is vast, with career pathways available in different areas, including:
- Air ambulance services
- Community and school health
- Emergency helplines
- Occupational health
- Private healthcare organisations
- Research, teaching and education
- Residential nursing homes
- The armed forces
- National Disability Insurance Scheme
Entry into the sector is as varied as the roles available, so no matter what academic pathway you choose to pursue, there’ll be an opportunity to get started with a career in healthcare and social assistance!
What You Could Do
Job roles in this industry tend to fall under one of four broader categories:
- Highly Specialised
Here’s a look at a few of the types of roles that fit into each of those categories:
- Allied Health Specialists: These healthcare professionals focus on one core area of human biology and health. Roles include Audiologists, Optometrists, Speech Pathologists and Dentists.
- Paramedics: Paramedics provide on-scene medical attention in emergencies, transporting patients to the hospital. The qualifications and experience needed to become a paramedic depend on the employer and location, and individual states have their requirements.
- Psychologists: Psychologists support people across a wide range of emotional and mental health needs. They work in medical settings, community settings, schools and universities. Psychologists typically specialise in one area of psychological health, such as helping children and young people or helping adults overcome addiction.
- Indigenous Health Workers: Indigenous health workers help to ensure that the health services most of us take for granted effectively reach indigenous communities. These professionals improve the quality of health services provided to Indigenous patients by liaising between health care professionals and Indigenous people.
- Clinical Administrator: Clinical Administrators provide professional support to medical staff, ensuring that all medical standards are complied with. As well as a medical qualification, you’ll need to be registered with AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency).
- Physician Assistants: This is a relatively new role in Australia, which is expected to grow as a profession in the coming years. Physician Assistants work under the direction of, and in collaboration with, physicians across medical settings.
- Clinical Nurse: Clinical Nurses demonstrate advanced clinical skills in their specialty healthcare area. They have a high level of knowledge in planning patient care across a range of medical settings.
- Assistant in Nursing: Assistants in Nursing (AlN) work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse or Enrolled Nurse. They help nurses carry out their duties, including assisting patients with toileting and showering and restocking/taking care of equipment.
- Aged Care Worker: Aged Care Workers support elderly people by assisting with daily activities and personal tasks. This includes providing support with eating, showering, dressing, tidying and cleaning. Aged Care Workers can work from their client’s home or residential care facility.
- NDIS Support Worker: Like Aged Care Workers, NDIS Support workers help people living with a disability to lead independent lives. They provide support with daily living skills such as shopping, cooking, travel, and getting to work or training.
These job roles are only just scratching the surface. Each industry segment will also include administrative or managerial functions that support the sector in significant ways.
Graduate Employment and Gender Split
Although a degree is not always essential for every career pathway into creative media and arts, it’s worth knowing what graduate employment looks like to help set your expectations and make further decisions.
The Graduates Outcome Survey tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors. Here’s the most recent data for this industry:
- Nursing Graduates in full-time employment: 72.7%
- Pharmacy Graduates in full-time employment: 96.4%
- Dentistry Graduates in full-time employment: 80%
- Social Work Graduates in full-time employment: 67.2%
Keep in mind that this doesn’t account for graduates working part-time and/or who may have continued to higher studies; these are very promising percentages!
*Figures from 2020 survey results.
The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within, but more females are predominantly working in this industry. Reports indicate that the average split is:
Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time healthcare roles as:
- Entry-level roles: $50-60,000
- Skilled roles: $59-68,000
- Professional roles: $75-91,000
- Highly Specialised Roles: $107-255,000
Salaries can be pretty varied and determined by several factors, including:
- The segment of the industry you work within.
- Your job title and seniority.
- The amount of experience you have.
Your location, for example, companies in large cities tend to pay more than those in rural areas.
The sector is not only a core part of the Australian economy; it’s vital for healthy and supported communities. Anyone starting in this industry will have a long-term career ahead of them, with plenty of opportunity for ongoing professional development and the chance to specialise and diversify the work they do.
According to the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, aged and disabled carers, nursing support, and personal care workers are the occupations that make up the highest proportion of the Australian healthcare and social assistance workforce. Growth is expected across the sector, especially within aged care and disability care, due to an ageing population.
Other critical areas of growth are mental health services, complementary health therapies (such as nutritionists) and nursing support.
Qualifications and Entry Pathways
Entry pathways are varied and will depend heavily on the type of roles you want to get into.
For example, highly specialised and professional roles will typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, along with some postgraduate qualifications plus experience.
You can start your career in healthcare through:
- Pursuing a degree: To start a degree in nursing, social work, psychology or another professional healthcare subject, you’ll need to complete Y12 and achieve an ATAR score of at least 75 (some universities require different scores, so check entry requirements when researching which university is best for you).
- Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can start a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship in healthcare, aged care or some forms of social work from Yr 9 and work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience.
- Work experience once you leave school: If you leave school at 16, you can apply for work experience and school-leaver programs in administrative or entry-level positions and work your way up over time. Many of these organisations will also support you to gain further professional qualifications. You’ll need a strong skill set and good grades in Maths and English as a mini
Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you do some research.
Entry-level qualifications you could pursue include:
- Diploma of Health Science
- Cert III in Health Services Assistance
- Cert IV in Allied Health Assistance
- Cert IV in Aged Care Support
Whatever your circumstances, grades or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.
Best Places to Study
Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some top institutions in Australia to study include:
- The University of Melbourne
- Monash University
- University of Sydney
- University of Notre Dame Australia
- Edith Cowan University
- James Cook University
- Curtin University
- Deakin University
Where to Learn More
You can find out more about different healthcare and social assistance industry pathways through professional bodies and organisations advocating for careers in the sector.
Some good places to start include:
- Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
- Australian Health Promotion Association
- Australian Health Promoting Schools Association
- Public Health Association Australia (PHAA)
- Royal College of Nursing
- Psychology Board of Australia
- The Mental Health Professionals Association
- The Australian Dental Association
And many more!
Each state will also have several professional organisations that can help you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.