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Over the last 15 years’ patterns of applications to different subjects have changed. Certain courses have experienced a growth in interest, while others have seen a decline.

We take a look at how popularity has changed for different courses in tertiary education, while also considering projected employment growth.



Taking a closer look

From May 2001 to May 2015 the fields of study that experienced the biggest changes were Health Care and IT, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. While Health Care has enjoyed continued growth since 2001, Information Technology experienced the largest decline.

So, what is causing these changes in demand?

While one survey found that the vast majority of young people do either like or love technology (96%), only 19% of those aged between 18 and 24, and 13% of those aged between 13 to 17, were actually interested in pursuing a career in IT.

A lack of interest in studying IT could come down to the fact that there is a perceived lack of work available in the sector due to outsourcing or imported labour, even though job opportunities have actually been growing.

It could also come down to the fact that schools may simply be unable to keep up with the rapid pace of evolution within the IT sector, making the courses taught in schools out-dated and inapplicable to the real world.

If we take a look at the Health Sector, on the other hand, we can see that the sector has experienced continued growth over the past decade. According to data from the ABS this is also reflected in the number of people who have chosen this sector as a field of study.

Greater proportional spending on health by households, as well as an ageing population, has led to a growth in the health sector. The healthcare and social services sectors currently employ more people than any other industry in the country.

In 2013 the number of Australians in these sectors stood at 1.4 million. At the then current rate of growth, 1 in 7 Australians would be in the sector before the decade was out. Of course, when the highest paid occupations are all professions, and are dominated by medical professions, interest is not surprising.

Employment growth by sector

While total employment in Australia is projected to increase over the next few years, this increase is not even across all job sectors. The Health Care and Social Assistance sector is expected to make the biggest contribution to employment growth at 20.9% of the total, followed by Education and Training (11.6%), Construction (11.2%) and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (11.15).

Those four industries combined are projected to provide more than half of the employment growth to November 2019. The only industry expected to experience a decline in employment is Mining and Manufacturing.

How does course popularity compare?

While the IT and Health Care fields of study were previously shown to have experienced the biggest changes, we wanted to see how students currently felt about tertiary education choices.

Our own survey results found that Health is one of the most popular fields of study, with 12.45% of respondents opting for a Health related field (Medicine, Nursing, Psychology, Health, Nutrition, Veterinary Science, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, etc.) when asked the following question:

“Which field of tertiary study would you most likely enrol yourself in if given the chance?”

The survey was done with a sample of over 1500 Australians, with 14.9% of respondents unsure of which field of study they would pursue, if any. The following top answers included:

  • Business (Business Studies, Accounting, Commerce, Management, Finance, Marketing, etc.) at 11.94%
  • Natural sciences (Science, Geology, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, etc.) at 6.98%
  • Education (Sports, Teaching, Early Education, Physical Education, Youth Work, etc.) at 6.6%
  • Engineering (Electrical Engineering, Construction, Aviation, Software Engineering, Logistics, etc.) at 6.6%

While some students are still undecided as to which field of study to pursue, it was clear from the responses that the fields of Health and Business are the most popular course choices. This appears to be in line with previous findings, as well as reflecting projected growth within different industries.