Working in Australia
Australia is a popular destination for graduates looking for a working holiday, but the government also encourages applications to live and work from those who might be able to fill the country’s skills shortages.
You are more likely to find a job if you are in the country and have a visa that allows you to work, such as a working holiday visa.
This article was last updated before the Covid-19 pandemic. It therefore does not reflect the restrictions to travel and changes to guidance brought about by the pandemic. If you'd like to find out more, the foreign travel advice on GOV.UK includes information specific to every country.
Australia is a popular choice for travel and work for UK graduates who want to experience life as far away from the UK as possible. There are skills shortages and Australia’s visa system can favour graduates with the skills they need. There are also visas available for working holidays that allow graduates to work for a limited time, and it is possible to progress from a working holiday visa to a sponsored visa for a professional position and then go on to permanent residence.
Getting a job in Australia
Australia operates a fairly complicated visa system designed to bring skilled workers into the country. If you want to apply for a long-term job in the country, it will help matters if your experience and employment history match one of the eligible skilled occupations. These are occupations for which you don’t require sponsorship from an employer, state or territory government. Common disciplines sought include engineering, construction, medicine and the sciences. Applications are points tested on a number of criteria.
There are various other options available if you are nominated (sponsored) by an employer or a government agency. You can find out more on the Australian government’s Department of Home Affairs website.
If you are considering work as part of a gap year or backpacking trip around Australia, you may find it easier to apply for a working holiday visa. These are available for those aged 18–30 and are processed relatively quickly, according to Australia’s Department of Home Affairs. It is common for backpackers to find work on farms gathering in the harvest during the appropriate season. More information can be found on the Australian government’s Department of Home Affairs website.
Where could you work in Australia?
Major industries: mining, farming, tourism, engineering, logistics
Leading employers: the big accounting firms all have offices in Australia (such as PwC, KPMG, Deloitte). The Australian Top 100 Graduate Employers, as voted for by Australian university students, include Google Australia, Apple, BHP, ANZ and Qantas. You can find more information about the Australian Top 100 survey and employers in Australia from TARGETjobs’ cousin down under, gradaustralia.
Skills in demand: engineering, sciences, medicine, construction, teaching, childcare
Are UK qualifications recognised? Larger employers in Australia may recognise English qualifications, but check with employers if in doubt. There are also some agencies that may provide accreditation and conversion services for qualifications if required. For specialist disciplines such as law, you may be required to undertake further study or a conversion course before you are allowed to practise.
What’s it like to work in Australia?
Working hours: very similar to the UK, with an average of 38 hours per week.
Holidays: under national employment standards, workers are entitled to four weeks’ paid leave every 12 months.
Income tax: foreign residents for tax purposes pay a slightly higher rate of tax (32.5 cents on the dollar up to AUD $87,000), while those on a working holiday visa pay a slightly lower rate of tax (15 cents on the dollar up to AUD $37,000).
Where to find jobs
TARGETjobs maintains a list of vacancies around the world which you can find on our international jobs search page.
You are more likely to find a job if you are in the country and have a visa that allows you to work, such as a working holiday visa. There are a host of job websites that list vacancies across the country, including gradaustralia.
The Australian government maintains a jobs website to help people find work.
Newspapers with vacancies
You may still find vacancies advertised in the national newspapers such as The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times . On the whole, newspapers tend to use job sites for listings online.
CV, application and interview tips
The application processes for companies in Australia is likely to be the same as, or similar to, their counterparts in the UK. You may find that a CV is called a résumé, but the contents required will be the same.
Large graduate recruiters may have their own employment websites and processes (as well as information about employing non-Australian residents) so always check employers’ sites before you apply. Employer websites are also likely to include information about their policies on work permits and visas.
If you need résumé writing tips or tricks, check out TARGETjobs series of articles that take your from the first draft to a CV-writing masterclass:
Work experience, internships and exchanges
There are a range of internship programmes available in Australia. You may wish to apply to companies directly and take part on a working holiday visa, or you may wish to go through an agency. Many will offer opportunities as part of a paid ‘package deal’ that could include accommodation, transport and visa assistance. Always check online to make sure that what you are signing up for is a legitimate scheme – try to speak to someone who has used the same organisation to arrange an internship to get their advice. Your careers service may be able to help with research and contacts. There are also a number of associations such as AIESEC and IAESTE which help those looking for work placements in specific areas of expertise.
There are a whole host of companies offering gap year experiences or volunteering opportunities in Australia online in a variety of different areas, often including up-close experiences with local wildlife. As with internships, always do your research before you sign up to anything.
There are other opportunities available via the Australian government’s Go Volunteer website.
Do you need a visa to work in Australia?
You will need a visa if you intend to work in Australia and the longer you intend to live and work the more complicated, and lengthy, the process becomes. Working holiday visas can be obtained in a little over a month and last for up to 12 months.
Longer term visas can be applied for via the government’s Skill Select system. You will need to submit an expression of interest and will be judged on a points system before a decision is made and you may be invited to apply for a skilled migrant visa. The process is considerably longer than applying for a working holiday visa, with wait times of six months to a year for a complete application. Anecdotal evidence from those with past experience suggests that the process can occasionally take even longer. Applications are not cheap, and a visa application may cost in the region of AUD $3,500.
Living in Australia
Cost of living: Living costs may be cheaper in more rural areas, but Australia is also home to some of the world’s most desirable places to live – at a price. If you’re living in Sydney or Melbourne, do not be surprised if your cost of living is at least on par with any major European or North American city.
Currency: Australian dollar (AUD$)
Healthcare: It’s wise to invest in travel insurance to cover the possibility of healthcare costs, though Australia’s Medicare services allow some subsidised healthcare for UK citizens.
Laws and customs to be aware of: Australia is particularly strict when it comes to biodiversity laws (with good reason). Be aware that flora or fauna, including products made of such substances, may cause you problems upon an inspection at customs. See Australia’s Department of Energy and Environment website for more information.
The age threshold for use of tobacco and alcohol is 18.
Major religion: Christianity
Type of government: democracy, with a federal system for individual states and territories.