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Opportunity knocking

The federal government’s budget boost to healthcare spending will create more jobs in the sector, opening positions in management and administration that will prove financially rewarding for health professionals with postgraduate degrees.

The health budget is significant, accounting for about a sixth of all government expenses.

The recent Budget papers show the government expects to increase spending on health substantially compared to the current financial year. The rise will amount to $1.5 billion in 2017–18 and $3.7 billion in 2018–19.

The increase in spending from 2017–18 through to 2020–21 reflects growth in a range of programs that will go to the states for public hospitals, sub-functions of health services, and programs such as mental health support and suicide prevention.

This increased spending on health is influenced by population growth and by the ageing of the population together with developments in health technology and the resulting use of new products and services. Longer life expectancy, for example, means age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s are becoming more prevalent.


The healthcare and social assistance sector, which employs doctors, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists and many other professionals, now employs more than 1.5 million people, or about one in eight Australian workers.

Over the past five years, the sector has added more than a quarter of a million jobs, making it the largest contributor to the nation’s jobs growth.

As government spending on health services increases, skilled administrators will be needed in all these areas to manage the extra funding and ensure effective delivery of health services to the public.

Completing a postgraduate degree and moving into a leadership position can significantly increase your chance of moving into a general health or nurse management position and boost your earnings potential.

Just look at the ABS data on wages. Health and welfare services managers earned an average weekly wage of $2721 as at May 2016, compared to the national average wage across all occupations of just $1230. Nurse managers earned an average weekly wage of $1952, well above average weekly earnings of registered nurses of just $1383 a week.

Separate ABS data reveal that the occupation groups with the highest mean weekly earnings were managers (across industries) at $1853, followed by professionals at $1545.

Average weekly earnings for those with a non-school qualification were highest for those with a postgraduate degree. At $1791, the figure easily outstrips the average salary of a professional. These ABS figures highlight the financial rewards that career progression and postgraduate study can deliver.

And the management positions are there for nurses to move into. Over the five years to November 2019, the number of job openings for health and welfare services managers is expected to average between 10,000 and 25,000. The number of job openings for nurse managers is expected to be between 5000 and 10,000. So, there are good opportunities to move into these positions and boost your income and career satisfaction.


Whatever your health background, completing a postgraduate degree will give you more flexibility, more career opportunities and more transferable skills you can take with you into a future management role.

You will stand out to employers from those health professionals simply armed with a bachelor degree. When weighed against other job applicants for a management position, nurses with a postgraduate health degree will be able to demonstrate their dedication and professionalism, and it will earn you respect from your peers working in the health sector.

You may be a registered nurse with many years of experience who wants to move out of direct care. Postgraduate health education can teach nurses how to critically evaluate the latest healthcare leadership research and translate it into policy, clinical practice and management of resources.

From a clinical leadership perspective, you can learn through postgraduate study how to identify strengths and get the best out of your team, use reflective practice and how to inspire greatness in others. So, there are many benefits to postgraduate study in health and opportunities which are there for the taking.

Professor Iain Graham is head of Southern Cross University’s School of Health and Human Sciences. He has a background in advanced clinical practice, health service management and education. He teaches in the areas of leadership, nursing theory and health policy.


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