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Programs

Study Online with Flexible University Courses

If you want flexible study, Australia’s online universities have some great options for you. As well as the ability to avoid travelling completely, you can study exactly when it suits you. Flexible online learning allows for year-round study and adjustable weekly schedules.

Unit by Unit, Not Semester Blocks

Flexibility

Flexible study is made possible by a new sequential learning model. Unit-by-unit study is transforming the university experience for online learners, especially for postgraduate students who are balancing study with work.

In the past, online courses followed the traditional on-campus calendar. Students would take up to 4 units at a time in semester blocks lasting 4+ months. That meant juggling multiple subjects and being hit with intense end-of-semester exam stress.

Far greater flexibility is now offered through unit-by-unit study. Online universities are breaking up the academic calendar into 6 study periods of 2 months. Online learners move through their programs sequentially, completing 1 or 2 units every 2 months.

Unit-by-unit online study allows new students to start a program any time of year. The next study period is never more than a couple of months away. Contrast that with traditional degrees, which have one, or maybe two, start times each year.

Unit-by-unit online study also allows you to adjust your study load according to what is happening in the rest of your life. You can take a break for just two months if you want instead of any stop having to go for several months until the next semester begins.

An Adjustable Weekly Schedule

Weekly study schedule

Much of the flexibility of online study comes from the ability to time when you view lectures or work on assignments. Your weekly schedule can be adjusted so that most or all of your learning happens only when convenient.

Online instructors and course designers aren’t stupid. They know that people enroll in their courses because of the convenience of studying online. So, instructors present materials and structure programs to maximise the flexibility factor. Course materials are available to students at all times.

This flexibility even applies to group projects. You have the option to talk on the phone or videoconference with classmates at a mutually convenient time. But emails and messages also work well to keep in touch.

Flexible Online STEM Degrees

Group of postgraduate students

STEM skills can take you anywhere – and now you can gain those skills anywhere, too, with Open Universities Australia’s flexible degrees.

By Brett Szmajda

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that just 18% of the workforce is skilled in science, technology, engineering and maths. But STEM expertise can open doors across a range of industries – as it has for Brenda Frisk.

After completing separate Bachelor degrees in Human Ecology and Education at the University of Manitoba, Canada, and a Master of Arts in Communications Technology with the University of Alberta, she forged a career building business solutions with technology at their core.

“Understand what’s important to people and you’ll create experiences they enjoy and technology that they’re going to use,” says Brenda.

Her most memorable career moments include creating an award-winning multimedia program; pitching 3D business solutions to a global aviation manufacturer while touring its enormous US campus, and working in rural Victoria to optimise a multimillion dollar water utility project designing a mobile application, which won an international award. “Each project brings a very different and exciting experience, which is part of what’s wonderful about working in STEM,“ she explains.

Now the Head of Learning Technology at Open Universities Australia (OUA), Brenda is an advocate for flexible degrees that fit a busy modern lifestyle. Providing the best flexible degrees remotely often requires ‘thinking differently’, she says. For example, rendering 3D models once required a supercomputer, but now students can gain this experience at home using cloud-based computing services on a tablet.

Bianca Braun, who studied a Master of Science in applied statistics through OUA, says being able to study whenever and wherever she wanted was key to finishing her degree. “There’s no way I would have been able to do this otherwise,” she says.

Data from OUA suggests flexible degrees have been particularly enabling for women interested in STEM. In the past three years, OUA has seen a 26% growth in females studying STEM courses, compared with a 16% growth in male numbers.

Like Brenda, Bianca wants to apply her STEM skills in a range of industries. “Every organisation has data,” she says. “My job is to tell the story behind the data.”

A STEM degree equips you with the tools to create solutions across a variety of disciplines. Brenda offers this advice: consider a problem in the world you would like to fix, then use your STEM skills to tackle it.

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Careers

STEM Careers List for Australia: Future Jobs

Australia’s STEM workforce is projected to grow by 2.5% per year to number more than 1.9 million workers in 2024. The makeup of the following STEM careers list may surprise you. Among the biggest fields are the use of mathematics in business and of science by healthcare professionals.

We broke down Australia’s employment projections to find out where science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills are actually in demand. Here are the top occupational fields where STEM knowledge and abilities are essential for getting the work done.

1. ICT Professionals, Including Data Analysts

IT professional

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals are projected to soon become Australia’s largest group of STEM workers. Future employment is projected to swell to 376,000 in 2024 (19.4% of STEM jobs), up from 313,000 in 2019.

The ever-expanding role of information technology, including the harnessing of big data, explains growing demand for ICT professionals. Career opportunities are strongest in the areas of software and application programming, systems administration and security, computer network management, and business and systems analysis.

ICT professionals usually have a bachelor degree in information technology or computer science. Many specialised bachelor and masters are available to help you break into the field. The industry also places a premium on job-relevant knowledge demonstrated or learned through recent projects.

2. Business Professionals Who Use Mathematics

Counting money

Around one in five STEM workers (slightly reducing to an estimated 19.5% in 2024) are business professionals. They rely on mathematics for activities such as accounting, financial analysis, auditing, statistical analysis and economic modelling.

Typically, these number crunchers hold a business degree with a major in a field such as accounting, finance, statistics or economics. They may also hold a science degree with a mathematics or statistics major.

3. Health Professionals, Including Physicians

Medical imaging

Health professionals make up the third largest STEM occupational group, projected to account for 17.1% of jobs by 2024. Here, we are counting most health professionals but not nurses and midwives (in which case the group would more than double in size and be easily the largest).

  • Nursing and midwifery accounts for the bulk of jobs for health professionals.
  • Like other health professions, science knowledge is required to train as a nurse and science is taught in nursing school.
  • But people are divided on the issue of whether nursing is a STEM discipline, partly because of the many care-giving roles with few or no science connections.

Among health professionals, the biggest “STEM” occupational groups are physiotherapists, general practitioners, occupational therapists, and audiologists and speech pathologists. One study found that 9 out of 10 doctors consider science education valuable to their clinical practice.

4. Engineers: Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, etc

Engineering professions

Engineering is the fourth biggest category of STEM occupations in Australia. Professional engineers account for an estimated 9.1% of the STEM workforce, a share expected to stay about the same into the future.

You become a fully qualified engineer by completing a 4-year professional degree at an Australian university. The largest disciplines within engineering are Civil (3.5% of STEM jobs), followed by Industrial, Mechanical and Production (1.5%), Electrical (0.9%) and Mining (0.6%).

5. Technicians for Architecture, Building and Surveying

Technician building plan

STEM skills are in high demand for translating design ideas and plans into actual construction work. Architecture, building and surveying technicians carry out technical functions to help construction site managers, architects and surveyors.

These professionals supervise and inspect construction sites; estimate time, cost and resource requirements; inspect plumbing or electrical work; collect survey data; and prepare maps and plans. Job numbers are projected to grow to around 165,000 in 2024.

Depending on the individual occupation, a university degree may be expected to work as a technician. Generally, though, a vocational education and training (VET) advanced certificate or diploma is the standard qualification.

6. Designers, Architects, Planners and Surveyors

Web and app designer

The sixth biggest STEM occupational group is often at the intersection of technology and art. Accounting for just over 7% of STEM jobs is a careers category that includes web designers, graphic artists, architects, urban and regional planners, and surveyors and spatial scientists.

A university degree is essential for many of these fields, though less so in the information technology space. Ultimately, however, career success tends to rely on creative and business talents that are difficult to measure in an academic setting.

7. Scientists, Including Medical and Environmental Science Professionals

Environmental scientist

STEM starts with “Science” but actual scientists make up only around 6% of the jobs. In the Natural and Physical Science Professionals category, the largest occupational groups are medical laboratory scientists, environmental scientists, geologists and agricultural scientists.

The workforce of scientists, which is projected to grow to a future level of 117,000 in 2024, is limited in part by the skills and qualifications required. A PhD in your scientific field is the norm if you want to have a successful career in research or applied science.

Other Notable STEM Career Fields

We’ve covered the seven major occupational groups in terms of STEM jobs. Other ones include:

  • Specialist Managers in ICT, Engineering and Research and Development (4.2% of STEM employment in 2024)
  • ICT Support Technicians (3.8%)
  • Medical Technicians (1.9%)
  • Tertiary Education Teachers (1.6%).