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Careers of the Future: Disability Support Worker

disability support worker

Globalisation, automation, and rapidly changing needs mean the future of employment will probably look very different from how it looks today. 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. 

If the thought of helping people and making a genuine impact appeals to you, you might want to consider a role as a disability support worker. This varied job offers lots of different opportunities and is experiencing incredibly high growth in Australia. Together with OET, we’re looking at what’s involved in this dynamic and rewarding career.

What does a disability support worker do?

A disability support worker plays an important role in the daily life of a differently-abled person. As a disability support worker, you’re there to provide physical, practical and emotional support to someone living with a disability so they can live their best life. 

This is a varied role and could include everything from assisting someone with shopping, cooking and cleaning, to accompanying them to social gatherings and planning outings. The exact job description depends on the person you’re working with, but your main priority is to ensure physical comfort and improve social connection, independence, health and wellbeing. 

This is an involved and diverse career that offers a high level of job satisfaction and the opportunity to make a huge difference to the lives of the people you’re working with. There are many different ways to work in this industry, including providing in-home care, assisted living and hospital care. 

What’s involved?

Because there is a wide range of care settings involving complex client needs, including aged care, childcare, transport, hospital care, in-home care, and assisted living, there are also endless opportunities to tailor your role and your working week. There are so many possibilities that you really can mould this multidisciplinary role to best reflect your strengths and support your chosen lifestyle. 

You can choose between shift work, part-time, full-time, contract work, and respite care depending on your other responsibilities and the type of role you’d like to work in. This versatility also allows you to try different areas of disability support so that you can find the role that makes you want to get up and go to work in the morning.

On the job

Every person is different, and because of this, each role will be unique! To give you an idea of some of the types of work available, we’ve put together a list of disability support worker jobs.

  • Everyday support (involves assisting with everyday tasks) 
  • Job support (providing support at work)
  • Specialist support
  • Childcare
  • Aged care
  • Behavioural support 
  • Occupational therapy 
  • Physiotherapy 
  • Mental health support 
  • Social work
  • Interpreting 
  • Art and music therapy 

Why disability support?

Make a genuine impact

Working with disabled people can be incredibly rewarding. This is your opportunity to make a profound impact on another person’s life, as well as the lives of their close friends and family. If you’ve always wanted to help others but perhaps weren’t sure how to do it, this could be the ideal career for you. Every day is different, you’re engaging with people, and there is the possibility for personal development, further training and career progression. 

This rewarding career also offers a lot of scope for change and new challenges as you learn more about your strengths, how best to help the people you work with, and where you feel you can have the most positive impact. For some, that might mean opting for shift work in a hospital setting, while for others this could involve working with children to aid them at school. The choice and flexibility offered within this industry is hard to find elsewhere. 

Opportunities that grow and change with you

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that over four million people in Australia are currently living with a disability. They have found that 42% of people living with a disability rate their health as poor to fair, compared to 7% of those without a disability. That’s a big difference. This comparison illustrates just how essential disability support workers are in raising the standard of living and general health of those living with a disability. 

If you have the added advantage of speaking multiple languages, you’ll be able to open even more doors. There are lots of people looking for disability support workers who speak their own language, whether it be Mandarin, Filipino, Nepalese, or Hindi.

Strong job growth

Disability support work falls into the broader job category of health care and social assistance, which is seeing the biggest growth out of any industry in Australia. It also employs the most people in Australia, accounting for just over 13% of total employment. The aged and disabled care sector is experiencing particularly high growth, with around 50,000 jobs expected to open up over the next few years. 

In Australia, there’s a fairly unique system designed to support those living with a disability, called the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS provides more than $22 billion in funding per year to people who have a permanent and significant disability. It’s a welcome change for those living with a disability, many of whom have never received the disability support they really need. The scheme also means that those working within the disability support industry now have excellent job security and the opportunity to invest in their future career in the knowledge the sector is growing and will continue to do so. 

How do I become a disability support worker?

You might be wondering what to study to be a support worker. It is possible to work in some minor capacity as a disability support worker without qualifications, but if you’re hoping to commit to this line of work as a full-time career, most employers require a qualification like a Certificate III in Individual Support or Certificate IV in Disability. You’ll also need an up-to-date police check and, if further study interests you, you might consider a Bachelor of Social Work. 

Working as a disability support worker is incredibly varied, so having a broad range of skills gained from your own life experience and perhaps other lines of work or study will serve you well in this multidisciplinary career. It’s important to note, some employers will also require you to have a valid drivers’ licence and up-to-date first aid qualifications. 

In order to apply for your chosen course, you’ll need to undertake an English language test to prove your English proficiency. OET is the only English language test specifically for healthcare professionals, and it’s accepted in several English-speaking countries including Australia. OET has also recently launched computer-based testing at more than 270 venues around the world, allowing more healthcare professionals to start their global career.

Click HERE to start your international healthcare career today.