Undergraduate study in health services and rehabilitation

Courses and specialisations

Health services and rehabilitation is a popular field at undergraduate level, with more than 45,000 students completing courses in the field across the country.

There are many health services course options, from general bachelor degrees in health science and applied science that allow students to explore a range of disciplines and complete a specialisation or ‘major’ in the discipline of their choice, to specialised courses that train students for careers in specific areas such as community health, disability studies, human movement, nutrition and dietetics, and paramedic practice. There are some highly specialised options available, such as medical radiation science and health services management, as well as many options in the alternative health disciplines, including homoeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. Double degrees are a popular option, with combinations available in fields such as business and management, humanities and social sciences, and the sciences.

The rehabilitation field includes courses in audiology, chiropractic, physiotherapy, podiatry, occupational therapy, optometry and speech pathology. These areas may be offered within a general bachelor degree (such as a bachelor degree in health science or applied science) or as a specialised degree (a bachelor of speech pathology, for example). These areas are highly regulated, requiring a recognised degree in order to practise. A new degree structure, which has already been established at some institutions, has the potential to become more common in the rehabilitation field in the future. The structure follows a US-style model where undergraduates enter a general degree (perhaps in health science or science) and then progress to a postgraduate qualification in rehabilitation. Some education providers offer combined degrees that allow students to graduate with an undergraduate and postgraduate qualification, such as bachelor of health science/master of speech pathology. See Postgraduate study in health services and rehabilitation for more information.

Applicants must meet academic and English language requirements, which vary between courses, institutions and qualification levels. Some undergraduate courses in health services and rehabilitation require the completion of prerequisite studies in science in secondary school. For more information about undergraduate courses and entry requirements, see Higher Education — Undergraduate.

Where to study

Undergraduate degrees in health services are offered at universities, private colleges and selected TAFE institutes, although some fields (such as paramedic practice) are only available at universities.Undergraduate degrees in rehabilitation are only offered by universities due to the regulated nature of the field. While general courses in health science are available at many institutions around the country, courses in rehabilitation or highly specialised health services fields (such as paramedic practice) may be offered by fewer institutions.  

The course you choose will depend on your area of interest and your career goals. If you are unsure about which area of science you are interested in, you might consider a general course (a bachelor of health science, for example) that will allow you to sample a range of science fields. Many students choose to complete a general degree and then specialise in a particular health service or rehabilitation field through postgraduate study. If you know the specific area that interests you, you may wish to select one of the more specific courses (a bachelor of dietetics, for example). You should also consider the type of work you would like to do, such as whether you want to work directly with patients or behind the scenes.

As in other practical fields, students in the health services and rehabilitation benefit from gaining work experience during their studies. Many courses, particularly rehabilitation, have work experience included in the curriculum through compulsory clinical placements. In other courses, you may be expected to seek out your own opportunities. If this is the case, look at the level of support you will get from your institution to obtain a placement. It is also important to check that the institutions you are considering have relevant facilities and equipment to help you gain the skills required in your career (such as on-campus clinics, simulated workplace settings and industry-standard equipment).

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