Studying Health Sciences in Australia
As people across the world live longer than ever, ageing populations increase, and technology brings new opportunities in healthcare, the health sciences provide many career opportunities in clinical and community health. According to the United Nations, the number of people over 60 across the world is expected to reach more than 2 billion by 2050. As such, the number of healthcare roles is expected to increase across the world as the population grows. In Australia alone, health care and social assistance is expected to be the largest area of job growth by 2023.
So why study health sciences in Australia? Australia has a reputation as the ‘lucky country’ – a laid back lifestyle, over 10,000 beaches, good weather all year round, our own unique wildlife, and affordable living. 5 of the top 30 best student cities in the world are in Australia; based on student mix, affordability, employer activity and quality of life. The Australian Government keenly support international students with the Federal Government providing over $200m annually in international student scholarships. Australia is also the third most popular destination in the world for international students. 8 out of 100 top universities of the world are Australian. There are over 260 languages spoken in Australia and five of the top 40 cities with the best urban infrastructure in the world are in Australia. No wonder Australia is the 4th happiest country in the world!
The health sciences covers a range of disciplines that focus on the science of health, such as physiotherapy, pharmacy or occupational therapy, as well as those that focus on community health, such as public health, human movement, or nutrition. Many Australian universities feature in the top 50 ranked universities in the world for health.
Most Australian universities offer one or more undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the health sciences. From large universities such as The University of Sydney, The University of Queensland or Monash University, to multi-campus universities as the University of South Australia, Curtin University, or Griffith University, or regional universities such as Charles Sturt University or James Cook University, there are many universities and locations to choose from. Many universities offer some of their subjects online so you can access course materials and communicate with your lecturers and fellow students. With so many study options, combined with the Australian lifestyle, it’s easy to see why 88% of international students are satisfied or very satisfied with their study experience and living in Australia.
Undergraduate health science programs are typically 3 or 4 years in length, and are taught in English. Postgraduate programs range from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the qualification level and any credit you may have from undergraduate studies. Some programs require students to complete field placements as part of their program, so check the program requirements before you apply for admission. Generally these are the clinical-based programs that lead to professional registration with an accreditation body, which must be maintained throughout your health career. Field placements are an excellent way to utilise your knowledge and skills learnt in class and work directly with clients. Many universities provide fieldwork opportunities for non-clinical, community-based health science programs as well, to better prepare students for the workforce.
Popular programs in the health sciences include:
- Exercise and Sport Science: Understand the impact that physical activity has on the biological, psychological and social parameters of human life.
- Medical Radiation Science: Diagnose and/or treat injury and illness through high quality medical images and radiation.
- Nutrition: Evaluate and communicate awareness of nutrition and food quality as determinants of human wellbeing.
- Occupational Therapy: Work with people to achieve their goals and optimise their lifestyle by managing constraints caused by injury or illness, including age-related or developmental limitations.
- Pharmacy: Understand biological, chemical and pharmaceutical sciences, to develop the skills needed for ethical pharmacy practice.
- Physiotherapy: Assess, treat and prevent human movement disorders and injuries.
- Podiatry: Diagnose and treat disorders of the foot and lower limb.
- Public Health: Play a role in the health sector and specialise in areas such as environmental health, health promotion, health policies etc.
- Speech Pathology: Work with children and/or adults in evaluating and treating communication and swallowing needs.
Many universities offer double degrees, combining two discipline areas, such as human movement and nutrition, that allow students to combine multiple interests and enter a variety of professions upon graduation.
International student fees vary, depending on the demand for the program and reputation of the university. All universities offer dedicated support to international students, including study support and social groups and activities. It is important to work with your agent to determine the best program and university for you, based on your interests, career aspirations and financial situation.
Australian universities comply with the Australian Qualifications Framework and are regulated by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. These independent agencies ensure that university qualifications across Australia are nationally recognised and consistent. In addition, TEQSA ensures the protection of the interests of higher education students. All university degrees in Australia must meet AQF and TEQSA standards, and are required to reaccredit their programs every seven years. Australian universities must meet the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, which is regulated by TEQSA. Many health programs must also be accredited by a professional body, to ensure a well-rounded and relevant curriculum.
As research into healthcare and new technology provides new and exciting opportunities, now is the time to study health sciences in Australia; which has produced 15 Nobel Prize laureates and is home to the world famous Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The Australian Council of Deans of Health Sciences (ACDHS) sits at the nexus between health and education. With membership from universities across Australia, we are well placed to provide insights on the demands the future health workforce will face. We look forward to welcoming you to Australia soon.
Professor Esther May, Chair, Australian Council of Deans of Health Sciences