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Study science courses in Australia

Field of Study: Sciences Course Information

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.

This is a large and diverse field. It is one of the few where most specialisations are still based on the pure academic disciplines. With that said, many programs and science departments now take on a more interdisciplinary approach, enabling scientists and students to apply a mix of scientific expertise to solve practical problems.

For more information about careers and education in this field, visit the Science and Technology Australia website.

If you are interested in this field, you should also look at related courses such as agriculture, computing and information technology, engineering and technology, environmental studies, mathematics, surveying, rehabilitation, medicine, pharmacy and veterinary science.

Browse science courses by state

VET study in the sciences

Courses, majors and specialisations in Sciences

Science courses in the VET sector are very accessible and tend to be career focused and rich in practical learning opportunities. A broad range of course options exists in applied sciences, including animal technology, biotechnology, environmental science, forensic science, health science and marine studies, among others.

Many of the VET courses on offer throughout the country are certificates or diplomas in ‘laboratory skills’ or ‘laboratory techniques’, which equip students for employment as technical officers or lab technicians in a range of science-based industries. Various diploma courses in laboratory technology are available in specific areas of specialisation — you could choose a course in biological and environmental testing, biotechnology, chemical and forensic testing, food testing, geoscience or pathology testing.

Study in such courses aims to develop high-level technical skills complemented by sound scientific knowledge. Work experience tends to be an integral component in many of the courses in this field of study, much of which is taken in the second year of study (for diploma courses).

Your choice of course in this field will most likely depend on your particular area of interest and where you see your career goals. If you are unsure where you’d like to end up working, or in which specific area of science, you might be best looking into general science courses.

On the other hand, if you have a good idea of the scientific area that best interests you, and in which you aim to establish your career, you may wish to select one of the more specific courses with a specialisation in a particular area (pathology testing or biotechnology, for example).

Where to study Sciences courses

VET courses in this field are offered at both metropolitan and regional campuses throughout the country in all states and territories, so you will not have trouble finding a suitable program. You will find courses offered at TAFE institutes as well as at some private providers.

Since practical experience is an important aspect of many of the courses in this field, it is important to check that the courses and institutions you’re considering have good facilities and provide access to the latest equipment and techniques. The best courses should also have good contacts with industry and employers and be able to assist students to find work experience placements.

Career opportunities in Sciences field

Many VET courses in science prepare students for a range of auxiliary roles, such as laboratory technician. Laboratory technicians can work in a wide range of exciting and varied settings across all industry sectors, and in both the public and private sector.

Some specialised laboratory technician roles may also exist for those who complete certain VET science qualifications (such as a diploma course in laboratory techniques). One such role is a medical laboratory technician, which may involve conducting routine lab tests for pathologists, microbiologists, biochemists, chemists, pharmacologists, veterinarians, or a range of other scientists. This role may also involve, under supervision, examining microorganisms, cells and tissues, analysis of blood and other body fluids, or assisting with scientific research projects.

Advancement to more senior positions in this field may require additional skills, which can be attained by further study, perhaps at university level.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

Undergraduate study in the sciences

Courses, majors and specialisations in Sciences

The following are just some of the majors you can study in this field:

  • Astronomy

  • Biotechnology

  • Botany

  • Chemistry

  • Food science and technology

  • Geology

  • Marine science

  • Medical science

  • Meteorology

  • Zoology

Many science courses focus on the ‘pure’ academic disciplines, including anatomy, biochemistry, biology, botany, chemistry, geology, microbiology, pathology, physics, physiology and zoology. The advantage of this kind of broad education is that it leaves many career options open. The downside is that you might have some trouble finding a job. Universities vary in the extent to which they allow you to mix and match science subjects with those from other departments, just in case you were thinking of dabbling in something more vocational. However, there are also some ‘applied’ courses available that can help to develop your career pathway. You could also pair science with courses like law, commerce or engineering through a double degree.

As for majors and specialisations, the list is long. You can expect to find anything from aquatic science to climatology, forensic science, nanotechnology, space science and zoology.

If you are thinking of doing a science degree or some science subjects, you have probably done reasonably well in science at school. This would be useful as most courses set prerequisites (often one or more of maths, chemistry, biology or physics). The sciences can be tougher to get into than the humanities and social sciences, but are not too difficult overall. That said, cut-offs can vary depending on the specialisation and institution you choose.

A key concern in this field of study is making science more appealing to school students in the hope that this will lead them to study science at tertiary level. One factor that may increase interest in the sciences is the introduction of the Australian Curriculum in primary and secondary schools. The curriculum is based on three learning strands: science inquiry skills; science as a human endeavour; and science understanding. It is hoped that the human endeavour strand will appeal to students who may not be quite as fascinated by science as others. It looks at great Australian scientists and their discoveries and includes information about science careers.

Further, there is a serious shortage of science secondary teachers in Australia and a decline in tertiary students completing degrees in these areas. A number of programs have been introduced to fix the problem. Mentoring programs such as the federal government’s Scientists in Schools program pair scientists with teachers and students with the aim of engaging students in science education through a fresh, applied approach. University programs, such as the University of Sydney’s Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (IISME), also promote new ways to learn science. Other initiatives include the New South Wales Government’s teaching scholarships and the Victorian Government’s Science Graduate Scholarship, which provide students with financial incentive to train as science teachers. Nationally, the Teach for Australia program places top graduates into the classroom and helps them to earn a fast-tracked teaching qualification.

Where to study Sciences courses

As such a huge field of study, you can study as science-based degrees at just about university and also through some TAFE institutes and private providers. Keep in mind, however, that some specialisations may only be available at select institutions and that this may mean that you will have do some shopping around to find the course for you.

If you are thinking of doing postgraduate research, it will be an advantage to study at a university with an established track record in science research.

See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.

To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.

Career opportunities in Sciences field

In terms of career options, science graduates these days are employed in a diverse range of job types across all industries. A large proportion of graduates actually go into jobs not at all related to science. Compared with other fields, science graduates find it hard to get a job after university, with 53 per cent of the 2013 class still looking for work four months later. Half go on to further study. On the bright side, starting salaries for science graduates in 2014 were good, sitting at $52,510, and graduates rated the teaching quality, the skills they gained and their overall course experience very highly.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

Postgraduate study in the sciences

Courses, majors and specialisations in Sciences

Most coursework programs, but not all, require a science-based first degree for entry. There are an increasing number of graduate certificate and graduate diploma programs, in addition to masters programs, which have always been a popular option.

Program specialisations vary and reveal that science has expanded from the pure academic disciplines — biology, chemistry and physics, for example — to include a range of areas that apply these scientific building blocks to specialised areas of endeavour. Programs in areas such as biotechnology, DNA technology, biomedical technology and mental health science demonstrate the range of programs that put science into practice.

Science also has one of the highest proportions of research students, with around two-thirds of postgraduates undertaking research courses. This is not surprising, seeing as science is one of the most significant, advanced and well-funded research fields in the country. Relative to its size, Australia is an impressive contributor to the world’s scientific research effort. Many research students are focused on the traditional science disciplines, but there are also many interdisciplinary and applied research opportunities provided by research centres (including the Commonwealth-funded Cooperative Research Centres) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) scholarships, which encourage research across disciplinary and organisational boundaries.

The shortage of science teachers in secondary schools nation-wide has led the federal and state governments to introduce a range of initiatives to get science graduates into graduate entry education programs. If you are considering postgraduate study in science, you may wish to keep this career option in mind. For details on incentives available, check with the federal and state education departments.

Where to study Sciences courses

As is the case at undergraduate level, you will have a wide range of postgraduate degrees at your disposal. However, again, this depends on the specific area you are hoping to study — niche fields may only be on offer at a handful of institutions (or better executed in certain parts of the country).

If you are contemplating a research degree, you may be better off looking at departments and schools with an established research program in your area of interest. You should also try to get a sense of where postgraduate researchers sit on the university’s list of priorities and check out the strengths and weaknesses of possible supervisors.

To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.

Career opportunities in Sciences field

Recent science graduates were impressed with the teaching quality and the skills they gained, rating both categories four stars in the national Course Experience Questionnaire survey. On the downside, their employment prospects were below average, with 32 per cent of graduates still seeking employment four months after course completion. Salaries were good, sitting at $77,460 per year.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

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