Globalisation, automation and rapidly changing needs mean the future of employment will probably look very different to now. In fact, many current careers won’t exist in the next 10 to 20 years. So, it’s critical that students ask the important question: ‘Will my chosen study path lead to strong job opportunities after graduation and beyond?’
In this series, we’re exploring a range of occupations forecast to have strong employment prospects in the future. Some careers in the tech industry are quickly emerging. Plus, there are other existing careers that will also have an important place in the employment opportunities of tomorrow.
This time around, we’re getting the facts straight about what it takes to be a mental health worker. With huge growth expected in the community services sector in the near future, now could be a very good time to start thinking about a career in mental health.
WHY BECOME A MENTAL HEALTH WORKER?
Mental health workers play an essential role in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the community. They provide support for people affected by mental illness by implementing community-based programs and activities focusing on promoting mental health.
And the mental health industry is growing at a significant rate. Almost half of Australian adults will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime, with more and more seeking help each year. This number is only set to grow, as the stigma around mental health is broken down and more people are able to get the support they need. The Australian Government forecasts more than 50,000 job openings in the community services sector over the next five years, so mental health is a smart choice in terms of job prospects.
Mental health workers are able to make a real difference through their roles. Offering support, compassion, and expertise, mental health workers change lives for the better. They work in a range of areas, including non-government organisations, home-based outreach, respite care, residential services, rehabilitation programs, and clinical settings. A mental health worker might conduct group sessions for people with mental illness, or work in case management, crisis support management, or support work.
When you graduate with a qualification in mental health, you could work as a mental health worker, alcohol and other drugs worker, or community support worker. You’ll also have the potential to pursue further study in nursing, psychology, psychiatry, social work or other health careers in the future.
Your mental health knowledge will be a valuable tool to help you understand the complex way people can be affected by social, environmental and physical factors and how professionals can help. Plus, the hands-on learning will mean you can get a feel for what health jobs are really like on a daily basis. If you decide you want to go on to further study at university, you may even be eligible for extra credit based on your diploma qualification.
During your studies, you will also develop the skills required to advocate on behalf of people with complex coexisting mental health, drug, and alcohol issues. Using tried and true techniques and the latest psychological research, mental health workers are able to diffuse difficult situations and get positive results. These skills may be useful in other aspects of your life, as they enhance your understanding of society and interpersonal relationships.
BECOME PART OF A FAST-PACED TEAM
Mental health workers usually work alongside doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists to put together a complete plan of care for their patients. As part of a cross-disciplinary team, you will meet inspiring professionals and learn from them in a hands-on environment. Every day on the job will bring a new challenge, and working together means that you can have the biggest impact.
ROOM FOR GROWTH
The health sector is growing rapidly in Australia, so a qualification in mental health offers job opportunities in towns and cities all over the country. You could work in the city or in a rural region, in private or public health.
To embark on your career as a mental health worker, you’ll need the skills and expertise to engage with complex situations. Most mental health workers start out by studying a qualification in mental health, counselling or community services, and often continue to learn and specialise in their field. Relevant options include:
- Diploma of Mental Health
- Certificate IV in Mental Health
Jamie is studying a Diploma of Community Services at Gold Coast TAFE to kickstart her career in the mental health sector. She plans to work as a counsellor and possibly become a psychologist after completing further study in the future.
“I’m really passionate about helping people, and particularly in the areas of mental health,” Jamie says. “This relates to my life experiences in many ways due to family and friends who have suffered from these issues.”
She chose TAFE because of the hands-on skills she will learn throughout her diploma.
“I think TAFE links theory and practice well,” she says. “First of all, from the teachers who have experience in the industry … and have often worked in the jobs we’re looking to go into. Also, [I appreciate] the connections TAFE has with the community services sector, particularly with the organisations that then offer placement.”
But it’s not all about academics. Jamie is part of the community at Gold Coast TAFE and has built valuable relationships with both her fellow students and the teachers.
“I like studying at TAFE because of the relationship and support you receive from not only your teachers, but all of the staff around the campus. I really also enjoy the camaraderie between all of the students.”