Qualified healthcare professionals are in high demand by the Australian healthcare sector. If you are a nurse, doctor, midwife, physiotherapist, or other healthcare professional, Down Under offers excellent job and earning prospects, and an attractive work environment. Whether you want to immigrate permanently to Australia or just want to work in Australia temporarily with a Work visa, qualified professionals have very good prospects for obtaining an Australian visa.
The Australian healthcare system regularly ranks among the top positions in various international healthcare systems rankings, with life expectancy for Australians among the highest in the world. This underlines the high quality and standard of the Australian healthcare system.
Australia has a high demand for skilled workers
Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Australian labour market. According to forecasts from the Australian Government, this strong growth will continue in the coming years. It is predicted that the number of employed nurses will increase from around 280,000 in 2017 to around 350,000 in 2022. Adding the number of retiring nurses to this number, over 160,000 nursing positions will be filled over the next five years. A figure that clearly exceeds the number of Australians expected to graduate in this profession.
Similar growth rates are forecast for other healthcare occupations. Accordingly, the prospects are excellent for non-Australians with the relevant qualifications.
Australian registration requirements and visa skills assessment
Individuals who wish to work in Australia in the healthcare industry must be registered with the responsible medical board. These boards, together with the Australian Health Practitioner Agency, oversee the registration process for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, and other health professionals. It should be noted that registration to practise medicine in Australia is partially independent from the skills assessment for visa purposes. Hence, if you plan to move to Australia and have a medical qualification obtained outside Australia or New Zealand, you may be required to go through two independent professional recognition processes.
There is a range of different types of registration to match different levels of training and experience. Given the high demand for healthcare professionals, for most occupations there are clearly defined pathways for non-Australians seeking to register to practice medicine in Australia.
The most complex recognition process is that for physicians, especially as this may require sitting a theoretical and practical examination. For most non-physician professions, however, the recognition process usually takes place on the basis of the documents and evidence submitted.
As noted above, the skills assessment for visa purposes, which is one of the prerequisites for qualifying for a Skilled visa, is partially independent from the registration process and, for some professions, is carried out by institutions other than the respective boards. However, there may be mutual dependencies. Applicants need to select the appropriate professional recognition process for their profession and qualifications, and ensure that the various steps are completed in the correct order.
Australian visa options for healthcare professionals
The Australian immigration system is strongly geared to the needs of the labour market and is regularly adjusted in line with those needs. Since the healthcare industry is one of the fastest-growing employment sectors, and has many vacancies, there is a correspondingly large amount of healthcare professions on the relevant eligible Skilled Occupations Lists, which provide access to the various visa classes.
For many of the sought-after occupations, there is even the option of obtaining a Permanent Resident visa directly.
Depending on which eligible Skilled Occupations List the respective job is listed, there are different visa possibilities. These visas vary in terms of the validity period (temporary, permanent) and whether or not a concrete job offer is a prerequisite for the visa. The major advantage of a visa that is independent from an employer is that the employee can change employer at any time without affecting his or her visa status.
English language requirement and proof of English language level
The registration process, skills assessment, and visa application usually require proof of English language proficiency. This is achieved through one of the various recognised English language tests. However, the language tests recognised by the respective organisations can differ, so applicants should take care to ensure that they complete the correct test, in order to avoid having to sit multiple tests. The IELTS Academic English test is recognised by all institutions. For health professionals, there is also the specialised OET test, which is also approved for visa purposes.
Working as a nurse in Australia
For nursing professions, a distinction is made between different qualification levels and specialisations in Australia. The main nursing professions for nurses from overseas are the enrolled nurse and the registered nurse. The prerequisites for registration as a registered nurse are a qualification comparable to the Australian qualification, which usually includes a three-year bachelor’s degree. For nurses from overseas, the pathway to registration as a registered nurse may also be via a bridging program designed to bridge the gap between the overseas qualification and the respective Australian qualification. Whether a bridging program is required or not is decided by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, which carries out skills assessment for immigrants. Once an applicant has successfully completed their bridging program – typically three months – they will be notified that they are eligible for registration. Assessment of the admission requirements is carried out on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual background of each applicant.
Registration as an enrolled nurse does not require a degree, as the corresponding Australian qualification is based rather on a practical, non-academic education.
Once you have been registered to the board, you can go through a skills assessment for visa purposes if this is required for your intended visa class. This skills assessment is carried out by another institution. In particular, for nurses registering as a registered nurse, a wide range of visa options, including a Permanent Residence visa, is available. But there are also a number of options for enrolled nurses.
Earning prospects depend significantly on the level of qualifications and work experience. Average annual income for an Australian registered nurse is currently around A$77,000.- and for an enrolled nurse around A$57,000.- Specialised or leadership-level nurses can earn well over A$100,000.-
Working as a doctor in Australia
The professional registration processes for doctors are very much dependent on the applicant’s qualifications. The three basic assessment pathways are:
• Competent Authority pathway
• Standard pathway
• Specialist pathway
The appropriate pathway must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Those who do not qualify for the “Competent Authority pathway” or the “Specialist pathway” because of their pre-qualifications can take the “standard pathway”. However, this also requires additional theoretical and practical tests. Another pathway is the “short-term training in a medical specialty pathway”, which is for individuals who wish to undertake a short period of specialist or advanced training in Australia. However, this pathway does not lead to an Australian professional admission.
The skills assessment body for medical practitioners and specialists is the Medical Board of Australia. The visa application process can only be started following successful registration with the board.
Employment and earnings prospects for physicians are excellent in Australia. However, earning potential varies greatly depending on area of expertise and work experience, as well as whether the individual is working as an employed doctor in a hospital or running their own practice.
For example, a self-employed general practitioner can expect an annual income of between A$200,000.- to A$300,000.- Specialised medical practitioners with lengthy professional experience or in management positions can earn well above this range.
Depending on the specialisation, there are different visa options for medical practitioners.
Working as a midwife in Australia
The professional admission procedure for internationally qualified midwives is very similar to the procedure described above for nurses and is also carried out by the same institution, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. Midwives interested in working in Australia are assessed by this board in terms of registration standards and qualification criteria.
The Australian Government forecasts that the number of midwives working in Australia will increase by around 10% over the next five years. Accordingly, midwives have a wide range of visa options.
Average income for an Australian midwife is around A$82,000.- a year, but can be over A$100,000.- a year for experienced midwives and those willing to work in rural areas.
Other sought-after health professionals in Australia
In addition to doctors, nurses, and midwives, prospects for an Australian visa are also excellent for other healthcare professionals.
The following occupations can also be found on the relevant requirements lists of the Australian Immigration Department:
• Ambulance officer
• Anaesthetic technician
• Cardiac technician
• Dental hygienist
• Dental technician
• Dental therapist
• Diversional therapist
• Exercise physiologist
• Health diagnostic and promotion professional
• Hospital pharmacist
• Intensive care ambulance paramedic
• Medical physicist
• Medical laboratory scientist
• Medical laboratory technician
• Medical technician
• Nuclear medicine technologist
• Occupational therapist
• Operating theatre technician
• Orthotist or prosthetist
• Speech pathologist
However, the Australian occupational profiles and qualification requirements are often not identical with the corresponding overseas qualification standards. The comparability of qualifications must therefore be examined on a case-by-case basis.
For most of these professions, registration and skills assessment processes are similar to those for the other occupations described above, but can differ in the details.
How can Visapath Australia help you?
Thinking of migrating permanently to Australia as a physician, nurse, therapist, or other healthcare profession? Or simply want to work in Australia temporarily? Visapath Australia can assess your visa options and work with you to develop a tailored approach for your visa application.
Our Visa Expertise service will provide you with all the information you need to make a decision as to whether or not to apply for an Australian visa, and which visa is the right option for you.
Once you have decided to apply for a visa with our assistance, a qualified migration agent will guide you through the jungle of the skills assessment, professional registration, and visa application, and will handle all of the communication with the Australian authorities for you.