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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%).
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Amy’s Medical Science Career

Amy Jo Vassallo knows the importance of being flexible – and not just because she is passionate about dance. Her career in medical science has seen her work in government, hospitals, and research centres, and finally led her to studying what she loves as part of her PhD.

Her medical science research, inspired by her own experiences as a dancer, is trying to better understand the kinds of injuries that are common among dancers.

“I’ve always been interested in the human body and how it works, and I think my early dance training – and associated injuries! – is what prompted that fascination,” Amy says.

“Dance is a physically demanding activity that has many health benefits, but also has an inherent risk of injury. Some can be minor, but others can be life changing.”

“By better understanding the magnitude, causes and effects of dance-related injuries we can more effectively prevent them.”

Amy started her career with a Bachelor of Medical Science at the Australian National University (ANU), and took her skills to the next level with a Master of Community and Health Development. Her postgrad knowledge led her to a job with the ACT government offering policy advice on health, where she found working in government to be a learning experience in its own right.

“It really opened my eyes to the inner workings of the health system,” Amy says.

That big picture consideration taught me that evidence isn’t just about the data, but also about community consultation and ensuring your research is relevant.”

Amy believes that the key to her career in medical science is that she’s never stopped learning.

“If you had told me in high school that I would be using statistics on a regular basis and actually enjoy analysing large amounts of population health data I would not have believed you!”

“But as my career has evolved, so have my skills.”

After a working as a research officer at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, largely in a medical assistant role, Amy found herself fascinated by the idea of pursuing medical science research of her own. This inspired her to start her PhD in dance injury research, but she still doesn’t know where it will lead.

“I’m starting to realise that I genuinely don’t know what my future career goal is or what I want to be when I grow up. But I certainly know what I don’t want, and I’m taking the opportunity during my PhD to meet and talk with as many inspiring people in health and science as I can to try to work it out.”

CONSIDERING MEDICAL SCIENCE? AMY’S ADVICE:

1. Do it! It’s a much broader, diverse, interesting and exciting field than you might expect!

2. Get to know people in the field you’re interested in, they genuinely enjoy talking about their work and want to share their experience with others.

3. Be a yes person, take advantage of any opportunities that may come your way.

AMY’S TIMELINE

>> Bachelor of Medical Science, Australian National University

>> Master of Community Health Development, University of Canberra

>> Policy adviser, Canberra hospital & ACT Department of Health

>> Postgraduate Diploma in Nutritional Science, University of Canberra, part time

>> Research officer, National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance

>> PhD, studying dance injury epidemiology, University of Sydney

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With Mass Education, Be Ready to Pivot

IN THE ERA OF MASS EDUCATION, IT’S TIME TO CHANGE OUR UNIVERSITY GRADUATE EXPECTATIONS.
BY DR ALAN FINKEL AO, AUSTRALIA’S CHIEF SCIENTIST

In 2012, Victoria hit a tipping point: 52 per cent of Year 12 school-leavers progressed to university. From that year on a bachelor’s degree would be the majority choice, growing in popularity with every new college cohort. It is the mark of an unmistakeable national trend: the era of mass tertiary education has arrived.

Higher education providers have been swift to remake their operating models – in the vocational education and training sector, often to regrettable ends. Australia’s universities, by contrast, stand today with their enrolments greatly expanded and their reputations intact.

But if the providers have been swift to change, our expectations have proven resistant. We seem to be amazed at outcomes that are simply the logical extension of the massification message we have embraced.

THE RESULTS OF MASSIFICATION COME DOWN TO SIMPLE MATHS

Consider, for example, the fall in minimum ATAR entry levels observed across institutions and courses. If we recruit more students, it is a mathematical certainty that we will accept students we would have turned away before. Why the surprise? It’s just the tenacity of the old expectations.

Then there is the current preoccupation with the growing number of graduates from professional degrees who cannot find linked professional roles.

Again, simple maths: in the mass education era we will have many more graduates competing for the specialist jobs.

IT’S INCREASINGLY UNLIKELY THAT YOUR PROFESSION WILL BE THE SAME AS YOUR DEGREE

Today we produce 15,000 law graduates every year and a legal profession with only 66,000 jobs, thus the odds of a graduate enjoying a long-term career in law are slim.

Only one in 20 economics graduates becomes a professional economist. Medicine is on the verge of oversupply; with similar talk of gluts in teaching and accounting.

So when graduates pivot from professional degrees into other worthy roles, why report it as a great revelation? And if we divert aspiring science students into other fields, what should we recommend – arts, music, accounting, economics?

THE MOST RELIABLE PREDICTOR OF SUCCESS IS THE CAPACITY TO PIVOT

Of course, there are genuine concerns regarding the preparedness of today’s school leavers to enter universities. It is unethical and unfair to lower entry standards too far in order to achieve the recruitment targets of the university.

Equally important, it would be wrong to lower exit standards, because we have a responsibility to give graduates something of value in exchange for years of work and possibly decades in debt.

But let’s start by acknowledging how much of our thinking is still limited by the old instincts.

It is time to recognise that it is not a failure to progress to a job that has no obvious link to one’s degree. In the mass education era, the capacity to pivot is probably the most reliable predictor of success.

STEM DEGREES ARE EXTREMELY USEFUL FOR PROBLEM-SOLVING IN ALL TYPES OF JOBS

Why do so many more jobs require tertiary credentials today than in the past? A modern economy, increasingly centred on services, demands workers with excellent analytical and communications skills. Skills acquired through a science, technology, engineering and mathematics degree happen to be extremely useful for complex problem-solving in a technology-rich world.

However, it is worth noting that when analysts suggest that 75% of new jobs will require STEM skills they do not necessarily mean the depth of expertise that comes from a bachelor’s degree. They mean proficiency at using technology for daily tasks, which graduates from arts, law, medicine and indeed all degrees will need to display.

In short: STEM skills are needed for traditionally non-STEM jobs. And the idea that STEM graduates should do only STEM jobs is irrational. Think tanks, take note. No one should interpret this complex picture as a reduction in the value of undergraduate training.

EXPECT TO BE JOB-CAPABLE, RATHER THAN JOB-READY

Universities have never turned out graduates who are “job ready” – robots ready to slot into the workplace.

Their value proposition is to produce graduates who are “job capable” – experts in their disciplines with the foundations of workplace skills.

Engineering students need to learn computational mathematics. Other skills such as communication, teamwork and project management must also be taught, but these workplace attributes will be honed year after year on the job.

Having mastered a discipline once, at university, it is not as difficult to do it a second time, on the job. I was trained as an electrical engineer, but my first working career was as a neuroscientist. It was an unconventional progression that might not have had an obvious link to my degree, but it was the first of several pivots that worked for me.

It is time for the narrative to change, in fairness to our graduates and in anticipation of the national needs.

Let’s abandon the historical expectation that degrees and careers should be tightly linked. Instead, let’s unchain our thinking and embrace the opportunities.

Read more: 

Australia’s top STEM employers

How do STEM skills add to your employability?

Postgraduate salaries and job security

This article on how to be successful in the era of mass education was first published by The Australian. You can read the original article by Australia’s Chief Scientist here.

Alan Finkel

THE IDEA THAT STEM GRADUATES SHOULD DO ONLY STEM JOBS IS IRRATIONAL.

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