Fields of Study
There are thousands of high-quality courses on offer in Australia across a wide range of study areas. Courses range from vocational certificates and diplomas through to undergraduate degrees and postgraduate programs. They are available across most fields of study, including agriculture, business, creative arts, engineering, health, law and science.
Explore the sections below to read about the different courses you can study in Australia and where you can study them.
You might think that accounting is all about boring number-crunchers in grey suits, but this is far from the truth. While accountants do have to be accurate with numbers and in the advice they give to people, the profession has otherwise well and truly outgrown this bean-counting image.
Agriculture is a small but varied field. Perceptions that jobs in the field are scarce and poorly paid may have contributed to dwindling enrolment numbers, but the reality is that many students may not even know what these jobs actually are or what agriculture is all about. If this sounds like you — or you think it’s just a field for future farmers — read on.
What does it take to design and build a masterpiece? If you’re a prospective architecture student, you should know that it requires plenty of inspiration and creativity — plus a qualification in architecture.
This is a small field as far as student numbers go, but its scope is huge. The term ‘built environment’ refers to everything that is man-made, as opposed to a part of the natural environment. This includes the objects inside our homes and businesses, as well as our buildings, communities and cities.
'Business and management’ is the biggest of our 30 fields of study. There are one or more business courses at every university (and often at each campus), at TAFE institutes and at many private colleges. You can study business units at almost all institutions and within thousands of courses.
The communications field can appear glamorous, especially if you can see yourself in the press pack door-stopping the Prime Minister or presenting a national current affairs show. While some do make it there, the fact is that many communications jobs are not in journalism or the media at all. After all, not everyone wants to be in front of the camera. Many communications roles are behind the scenes — producing the show, writing the press releases or even monitoring the news reporting.
There’s no doubt that information technology is a vital part of our lives. Commerce, industry, government, education and even entertainment, recreation and communication all depend on it. If you want to study in this field, you might need to give some thought to identifying which aspect of it is most important and interesting to you.
The visual and performing arts are as old as civilisation itself. Years ago, creative talent used to be nurtured by patrons who would sponsor the development of individual artists and overall artistic technique. These days, many choose to pursue their passion through formal study.
Dentistry is a small, well-known and high-status profession. In general practice, dentists perform tasks associated with diagnosing, treating and preventing disease and abnormalities of the teeth, gums and mouth. Dentists can also specialise in a number of areas, earning titles ranging from the familiar (such as orthodontist and oral surgeon) to the unusual (periodontist and prosthodontist) and the glamorous (forensic odontologist).
Economics can be described as the science of decision-making. It is concerned with the way society distributes and uses resources such as land, labour, raw materials and goods and services. It is one of the very few fields of study that is both an academic discipline connected with a huge body of knowledge and an occupation.
Due to the constant demand for teachers, education is often seen to be a ‘safe’ choice of occupation. This perception often overshadows the reality of what the job actually involves. Teaching can be very rewarding, but it is also incredibly challenging and requires a lot of hard work. Teachers may benefit from great holidays, but the reality is that they spend much of that time preparing class plans and writing reports.
Engineers help to make things that we use on a daily basis — from the cars we drive and the medical technology we depend on, to our cities’ buildings and our regions’ water supplies. Inspired? You should be. This profession boasts many important achievements, and there would appear to be many more ahead.
With environmental issues dominating world policy and the news media, new areas are developing constantly, and these are reflected in the diverse range of education choices. The prominence of issues such as water and climate change has also resulted in extra research funding for many universities.
The health services and support field encompasses a wide range of professions. Some health workers focus on running things (such as those in health administration); some on advising and educating people (health promotion or occupational health and safety); some on working for or advising public agencies and other organisations (public health); and some on delivering health services (radiography or nutrition).
If you are interested in pondering over the timeless life questions and really getting your head buzzing, then it’s hard to go past the humanities and social sciences. This is the second largest of our fields of study (after business and management) and it's also one of the most complicated, with many courses and specialisations within courses, as well as different kinds of careers and further study options.
Learning a second or third language opens up your eyes to a whole new world. If you are interested in languages but don’t have the desire to learn another one, a foreign language is not the only path you can take. Many courses are available in English, linguistics, applied linguistics, interpreting and translating, which all look at human language in very different ways.
Can you see yourself cross-examining witnesses in a courtroom? Do you like a good debate? Do you like reading, research and analysis? Many students see law as offering a secure career in what can be a high-status profession. The reality is that law courses are usually very tough to enter and can involve a great deal of hard work. Careers in law aren’t always as glamorous as they seem either — you are just as likely to end up working as a suburban solicitor as you are strutting around the Supreme Court.
If you are considering studying mathematics at tertiary level you have probably studied it throughout school and are reasonably proficient. You may also know of its main subdivisions: pure mathematics (subjects like differential and integral calculus, mathematical logic and linear programming, as well as areas like environmental or financial mathematics); applied mathematics (such as vector calculus, dynamics and probability); and statistics and operations research (including sampling theory, nonparametric statistical inference and stochastic processes).
Are you comfortable being around people who are sick and injured or do you go pale at the sight of blood? Do you care about health and wellbeing? We ask these questions because too many people choose medicine without realising that they are also choosing to be doctors (almost all medical graduates go on to work as doctors). And if they do think about their future occupation, they tend to concentrate on social status and money, rather than the long hours and huge workload that doctors undertake.
Nurses work closely with different health professionals, patients and their families. They are well known for their compassion and communication skills. As a nurse, you will encounter some people during the most difficult times of their lives and others during the most exciting times. This is a career that is both rewarding and versatile.
In the legal system hierarchy, lawyers are at the top and all the other people who administer justice (such as police officers, parole officers, prison officers, paraprofessionals who assist lawyers and people who design and run security systems in big organisations) are arranged below them.
Psychology is listed separately from the other social and behavioural sciences because it can lead to a specific profession with its own strict rules for admission and practice. It is quite different to courses in counselling, which are often bundled in with the humanities. Contrary to what people might think, the work of a psychologist involves much more than straight counselling.
Rehabilitation is a field of study that prepares you for roles that are closely aligned with other health professions, particularly medicine. The type of role you go into depends on the qualification you obtain, as this determines whether you work at a paraprofessional or professional level.
If you have a passion for discovery and problem-solving then a course in science might be for you. Despite our comparatively small population, Australia has produced some of the world’s best scientific researchers who regularly make ground-breaking discoveries, greatly adding to both Australian and global knowledge and capabilities.
If you enjoy helping others to deal with personal and social problems then social work may be a good career choice for you. Courses in social work teach you to understand and analyse the circumstances of people facing a variety of problems and challenges, and to develop strategies that will help to improve these circumstances or reduce their impact.
Australia’s intense love of sport and recreation has driven fields under the sport and leisure umbrella to the forefront of many students’ career choices. Over the last decade, universities (mainly the newer ones) and private providers have created a host of new courses in sport and leisure. Courses in fields like sports medicine, sports management, leisure studies and outdoor recreation are now rivalling some of the most popular traditional courses.
This is a field with a clear focus: ‘the determination and identification of the shape, contour, location and dimensions of land or water masses and their features, or planning and designing maps’, says one definition.
As hotels, restaurants and travel services have become more sophisticated, traditional Australian attitudes to ‘serving’ have changed dramatically. In the past, most people in the tourism, hospitality and related industries had little training, with most gaining the relevant knowledge and skills on the job. These days, both vocational and higher education qualifications at various levels are offered by a range of institutions.
Cute animals aside, one of the best things about being a vet must surely be having the ability to treat and cure disease and sickness in animals and increase their quality of life. If you have a passion for animals and good communication skills to deal with their owners, along with a strong stomach that will no doubt be necessary at times, then a career in veterinary science could be for you.