Qualifications and experience needed for disability work

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Qualifications and experience required to work in the disability sector can be gained through different types of education or personal development through TAFE, university, on the job training or other accredited courses.

Key points:

  • Qualification levels will vary depending on what is studied and where the qualification is obtained
  • Specialist roles may require higher levels of study, with many requiring university-level qualifications
  • To work as a disability support worker, you may not need formal qualifications

What qualification levels are there?

There are many different levels of qualification that can help with gaining the skills and knowledge to prepare you for a disability support career or job.

These range from a Certificate III in Individual Support to a university degree. Depending on what type of job you are interested in, there will be different requirements.

On top of a qualification for working with people with disability, many employers will value additional training such as working with challenging behaviours, experience working with people with mental health conditions and first aid skills.

You’ll also be required to obtain a police clearance and, if applicable, a working with children check or possibly a working with vulnerable people check.

Disability support worker

In Australia, you can work as a disability support worker without any formal qualifications. However, gaining further education and skills may help you when it comes time to enter the workforce.

An employer may require specific qualifications due to a client’s needs, or because they want to ensure that their staff can strengthen the care that they provide.

Examples of general qualifications include:

  • Certificate III in Individual Support
  • Certificate IV in Disability

These qualifications will give you an understanding of independence and wellbeing of people with disability, how to support them at home and in the community, rights and responsibilities as well as teaching you the skills to provide individualised support.

There are also opportunities for employment through university education, including a Bachelor of Social Work.

You may also need additional qualifications to do tasks like manual handling and transporting people with disability. These qualifications may be offered by your place of employment or other accredited training organisations.

Disability support workers may need to gain experience through volunteer roles or traineeships offered either through education providers, employers or other organisations.

Support coordinator

There are no specific degrees or qualifications to become a support coordinator but there are a number of pathways into the field.

A pathway into working as a support coordinator could be studying a bachelor-level degree or a Certificate-level course in disability support, welfare work or case management.

It’s also expected that as a support coordinator you will have an understanding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, disability support options and available community services.

Depending on the degree studied there may be requirements that you are registered with a professional organisation in order to practice.

For example, you may be required to register with the Australian Association of Social Workers.

There are often opportunities for support coordinators to further their career, through further education or by becoming a specialist support coordinator.

Case managers

Case managers provide case management across a number of areas and exact qualification requirements may depend on the area in which management is being provided.

Generally, to become a case manager there are specific certificates and diplomas available through TAFE or private colleges.

These can include things like a Certificate III in Community Services or a Diploma of Community Services.

There is also a pathway to case management through university education, for example, you are able to complete a Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Community Services) or a Bachelor of Community Services.

These courses will take at least three years to complete and will require you to have completed year 12 or meet the university’s additional admission requirements.

Enrolled Nurses and Registered Nurses

An Enrolled Nurse (EN) is generally a nurse who already has formal qualifications and clinical experience.
To become an EN further education is required with, generally, the completion of either a diploma or advanced diploma.

There is also the option to complete additional university qualifications to become an EN, these qualifications are normally completed at either a Bachelors or Postgraduate level.

For example, someone wanting to become an EN may complete any of the following:

  • Diploma of Nursing
  • Advanced Diploma of Nursing
  • Bachelor of Nursing – Post-Registration
  • Bachelor of Nursing (Honours)
  • Graduate Certificate in Advanced Nursing
  • Master of Nursing

To work as a Registered Nurse (RN) a bachelors degree in nursing is required as well as registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. This registration needs to be renewed every year.

Completing a Bachelor of Nursing, which is available at most Australian universities, will normally take three years and will cover key skills and knowledge to work as a RN.

The degree is offered either as a full-time Bachelor of Nursing or an equivalent part-time Registered Nurse course.

Specific curriculums can vary slightly between universities but the course will normally provide clinical experience in various settings and theory work.

Specialist support

The study undertaken for specialist support jobs is usually at the university level. Qualification requirements will vary depending on the area of specialisation.

Some of the areas of specialisation and their qualifications include:

Speech pathologists: Generally, to become a speech pathologist in Australia, you need to complete a degree in Speech Pathology at an accredited university.

It is then a requirement to register with Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) to become a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP).

Degrees to study include:

  • Bachelor of Speech Pathology
  • Masters of Speech Pathology
  • Master of Speech and Language Pathology

Occupational Therapists (OT): OTs need to complete a degree at an accredited university and then register with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia. OTs meet the Board’s registration standards to practise.

Degrees to study include:

  • Bachelor of Occupational Therapy
  • Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours)
  • Master of Science in Occupational Therapy

Dietitians: Dietitians need to complete the required study and then gain Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) accreditation.

Generally, to gain this accreditation, one year supervised Provisional Program accredited by the Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA) needs to be completed.

Once APD accreditation is achieved, it is a requirement to complete a minimum of 30 hours of Continued Professional Development to renew accreditation each year.

Degrees of study include:

  • Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics (Honours)
  • Master of Dietetics

Additional qualifications and experience

In addition to qualifications obtained through learning, you may also need to get certificates like:

  • A valid National Police Check
  • A Working with Children Check
  • A Working with Vulnerable People Check
  • A Current First Aid Certificate
  • An Australian driver’s licence and vehicle to transport clients to and from their home/residence

Normally these additional requirements will be listed in job descriptions and are required by many organisations to help protect the people that they are working with, which you would provide care to.

What disability sector job would you want to work in? Tell us in the comments below.

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