Working in Australia
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
If you’re one of the many UK graduates backpacking round Australia and working under the Working Holiday visa scheme, you’re likely to find temporary, seasonal or casual work fairly easily, as tourism and agriculture are two of the country’s major industries.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to settle in Australia long term for professional and permanent employment, you’ll need to apply through SkillSelect. As this scheme gives priority to people who have skills, qualifications and experience, your chances of success very much depend on having the desired skills, qualifications and experience.
Alternatively, you can be sponsored by an employer through the Employer Nomination Scheme. It may also be possible for a UK/EU graduate working for an international company to work in its Australian branch for a period of time.
Detailed information on all the visas available can be found at Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).
Where can you work?
- Major industries: agriculture, mining, tourism, chemicals, steel, industrial and transportation equipment, food processing.
- Recent growth areas: agribusiness, education, services sector and tourism.
- Shortage occupations: see the Australian government Skilled Occupation List (SOL).
- Major companies: Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), BP Australia, BHP Billiton, Caltex Australia, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Glencore, Qantas, RioTinto, Suncorp, Telstra, Wesfarmers, Westpac Banking Group, Woolworths.
What’s it like working in Australia?
- Average working hours: 38 hours per week. Extra hours may be paid at overtime rates.
- Holidays: all permanent employees in Australia are entitled to four weeks' paid annual leave per year. Public holidays vary depending on the State you are in.
- Tax rates: as a non-resident, you'll pay considerably higher tax contributions than Australian residents. Non-residents are taxed at a rate of 32.5c in every dollar earned up to A$80,000, with increasing tax rates for earnings above A$80,000 (2015-16). Foreign residents don't have to pay the Medicare levy. For more details on tax issues, visit the Australian Taxation Office website. Don’t forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
Applying for jobs in Australia is very similar to the UK. Companies usually request a CV (called a résumé in Australia) and covering letter, or they may have their own application form. The content and layout of a résumé is similar to a UK CV. Get more applications and CV advice.
You could include some comments on how you can add value or contribute to the workplace in Australia. The careers services of many Australian universities offer advice on résumés and applications. Try the University of New South Wales Careers and Employment Service. Websites like CareerOne and Career Guide Australia also offer guidelines.
Speculative applications are common in Australia and if you have a particular company in mind that you wish to contact there is nothing stopping you from applying direct.
It is not generally a good idea to apply for graduate jobs in Australia before having the correct visa and being resident there. The exception is if you already work for an international company that has branches in Australia, or if you have specialist skills or a profession included on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL).
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
UK qualifications are generally well recognised around the world, but check with the employer or the relevant professional body before applying for work.
Realistically, most students and graduates on a year out don’t start their job search until arriving in Australia, but it may be wise to do some preparation before leaving home. Start with your university careers service for information on work and study in Australia.
- GradAustralia – graduate jobs with leading employers
- jobactive – national vacancy database, searchable by region and type of job
- Adzuna – vacancy database searchable by sector and region, includes graduate jobs
- CareerOne – large job site with 400,000+ opportunities
- Jora Australia – jobs across Australia
- SEEK – jobs across Australia
- UniJobs – Australia’s university jobs website
The Recruitment & Consulting Services Association (RCSA) is the professional body for the recruitment and HR services sector in Australia and New Zealand, and its website contains a list of member recruitment companies that follow the RCSA professional code of conduct.
Private employment agencies, along with their websites, are also listed in the Australian Yellow Pages. Search using 'employment services' or 'employment and recruitment agencies'.
The main daily newspapers carry job supplements and are generally state or territory based, including:
- The Age – Melbourne, Victoria
- The Australian – national
- The Canberra Times – ACT (Australian Capital Territory)
- The Courier-Mail – Queensland
- The Sydney Morning Herald – New South Wales
- The West Australian – Western region
The Australian government's jobactive employment services system aims to help people find employment.
As not all jobs are advertised, but are filled via an informal network, you need to be proactive, realistic and persevere. Take advantage of networking opportunities and expand your networks by joining professional associations and Chambers of Commerce, through online social and professional networking, and by undertaking voluntary work. Contact employers direct and ask if they are currently recruiting.
University careers services in Australia generally offer a similar range of services to those in the UK. The specific services and the amount of help they're able to provide for international students and graduates will vary between institutions.
Getting work experience
Work placements and internships
There are several work placement and internship programmes operating in Australia. Organisations usually help with visa arrangements, transfers from the airport, accommodation for the first few nights and finding you work. Although there’s usually a fee involved, these schemes often provide an instant network of fellow visitors/travellers. Here are some examples:
- AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) – opportunities for students and recent graduates to undertake a paid international internship in a range of countries, including Australia
- Australian Internships – internship programme provider for overseas students and recent graduates looking for internships
- BUNAC – offers a range of programmes to work in Australia, including professional internships and working holidays
- Intern Options – Australia – work placements and internships
IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) provides science, engineering, technology and applied arts undergraduates with the opportunity to take part in exchange programmes. These typically last up to 12 weeks during summer.
UK teachers with a minimum of five years' teaching experience who want to spend a year teaching in Australia may be eligible for the Commonwealth Teacher Exchange Programme (CTEP). Teacher exchange programmes also exist in a number of Australian states and provinces. See the Aussie Educator website for a list.
If you have a Bachelor's degree and meet the requirements to be a permanent resident or citizen of Australia, you may be eligible to apply for the Teach for Australia graduate programme and work as a teacher in an educationally disadvantaged school for a couple of years.
If you’re on a Working Holiday visa, you’ll be interested in finding short-term, casual positions to fund your travels. Some job search websites advertise casual positions, for example:
- jobactive – includes a 'harvest job search' section for jobs for those wanting to travel around Australia
- Work n Holiday
You may be able to find casual work for certain occupations, including retail, hospitality, labouring, tourism and fruit picking, by targeting particular companies, farms or outlets and going in person and handing over your résumé. Keep an eye out for advertisements in shop windows and on community, café or backpacker hostel notice boards.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
There are many charities and non-government organisations (NGOs) in Australia looking for volunteers. Use the Australian government's Go Volunteer website to search for opportunities.
Do you need a visa?
In a word, yes. You’ll need to apply for a visa online before you go to Australia, and processing times can be lengthy. There are short or longer-term options:
Graduates who want to holiday and work in Australia may be eligible for the Working Holiday visa, a temporary visa which allows young people aged between 18 and 30 years to work and holiday for up to a year. The application must be made outside Australia and you'll need to have enough funds to support yourself and to buy a return or onward ticket. You can do any kind of work during your 12-month stay, but can only work for six months with any one employer, although you may be given permission to work for a longer period of time in limited circumstances. You can study for up to four months.
Australia's General Skilled Migration (GSM) programme reflects the country's economic needs as well as its regional skills shortage. Applicants for skilled independent, nominated or regional skilled visas will need to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) online via SkillSelect. Once submitted, you may then be invited to apply for a skilled migrant visa. You then have 60 days to lodge a visa application, at which point you must nominate an occupation from the relevant skilled occupation list.
You can get all the details at Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and apply through ImmiAccount, the online system where you can create, submit, pay, manage and track all online visa applications.
If you’re not a UK national, contact the Australian embassy in the country where you are currently resident to find out how to obtain visas and work permits. If you’re living in the UK, visit the Australian High Commission in the UK.
It might also be helpful to contact your ministry of foreign affairs (or your own embassy if you are not living in your home country) to ask whether there are any issues to be taken into account when considering working in Australia.
How do you become a permanent resident?
You’ve already got permanent residence if you have a current visa which permits you to live in the country indefinitely. The next step is Australian citizenship. You will only be eligible for citizenship if you have permanent residence, satisfy the residential requirements and are of good character.
Living in Australia
- Cost of living: differs between major cities and regional centres, and relative cost will depend on exchange rates. In general, the cost of living is slightly lower than in the UK, although rent is higher. Sydney is the most expensive city to live in according to Mercer's cost of living list, which ranks the most expensive cities in the world for expats to live in.
- Internet domain: .au
- Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD or A$).
- Health: healthcare in Australia is of a similar standard to the UK, and is both public (through Medicare) and private (through health insurance). UK visitors are able to access limited subsidised health services from Medicare.
- Type of government: a federal parliamentary democracy and Commonwealth realm with three levels of government – the Australian government (federal), state and territory government and local government (councils).
- Laws and customs: the legal age for consumption of alcohol and the sale of tobacco is 18; smoking is banned in enclosed indoor and some outdoor public spaces (for example, commercial outdoor dining areas) and in a car with a child as a passenger; littering is illegal, and fines and penalties apply for the possession of illicit drugs. The Australian government does not currently allow same-sex marriages to be held in Australia nor does it recognise same-sex marriages entered into overseas.
- Emergency numbers: general emergency – 000 (ambulance, fire and police). British citizens can get help from their nearest consulate in an emergency. See the British High Commission Canberra for a list.
- People: the most recent census (2011) revealed the most common ancestry as English (33.7%) and Australian (33%) followed by Irish (9.7%); Scottish (8.3%); and Italian (4.3%). The Aboriginal people now make up less than 3% of the Australia's people.
- Major religion: Christianity