Chart a short course to your new career

Whether you are looking to update your qualifications, learn a new skill for the next stage in your career, or move into a new professional field, it’s worth considering doing a short, six-month course that is focused on your needs. Over 250 are now available from Australia’s tertiary institutions in a wide range of fields. Here are some examples of what is on offer to boost your career.


Offered completely free for the first time this year, the University of Tasmania’s Undergraduate Certificate in Community Support is designed to fill some of the gaping skills and knowledge gaps in the fields of caring for those with physical and mental health problems and life difficulties. The designers hope the easily accessible and cost-free short course will help address the many sector problems highlighted by recent Royal Commissions looking into aged care and disability.

“We anticipate this will be really attractive to people already working in the social and community services sector,” says course coordinator Carolyn King, adding the course is also intended to attract students looking to find work in the field and it is offered fully on-line or with face-to-face elements.

“It’s workforce development in community services that’s desperately needed. We’re quite excited at being able to offer this, we know cost is a barrier for a lot of people. The wages in this area are not that high.”

Designed in consultation with experts, the four-unit course provides a foundation in the skills and knowledge people need to become “helping professionals”, King says, adding “it’s a course designed with the needs of the industry in mind.”

Students will work with virtual case studies of individuals, families and communities, and rather than traditional assessments there will be real-world assessments of tasks within the workplace.


An Undergraduate Certificate in Engineering will be offered by the University of NSW for the first time this year, tapping into a surge of interest in more practical educational qualifications. Maurice Pagnucco, deputy dean (education) at the university’s engineering faculty, says the short course is an introduction to the complex field of engineering and its many specialist branches.

Covering four subjects including communication and engineering, mathematics, introduction to engineering design and innovation (for which students will make something), and a choice between two computing subjects, the broad introductory course now has a face-to-face element, but Pagnucco says that depending on pandemic requirements the university can rapidly pivot to offer a fully online course.

“The certificate doesn’t really push you into any specific engineering discipline, it’s quite broad,” he says. “You can get a taste of engineering and then go on into undergraduate degree.” Or the certificate can stand alone on a student’s resume.

“There’s a big demand for engineers and computer scientists at the moment.,” he adds. “These programs would help someone who probably hasn’t studied for a while to get a taste of what it would be like.”


With vast and fast-moving torrents of data to manage and store, institutions and businesses are increasingly turning to the cloud – a development that requires advanced levels of professional expertise. Charles Sturt university’s Graduate Certificate in Cloud Computing and Virtualisation is an introduction to the knowledge and skills needed to manage the burgeoning field of cloud computing.

Charles Sturt’s course director in the school of computing, mathematics and engineering, Sabih Rehman, says the course uses industry-specific content from the university’s partnership with Amazon Web Services – a giant in the field.

“The course is taught around some of the areas highly in demand; that industry actually needs in terms of skills,” he says, noting these include issues of big data, increasingly fast connectivity, 4D platforms, and the increased flexibility of NBN businesses.

A pathway to a master’s course, the post-graduate course covers four units and provides a fundamental understanding of cloud computing, including issues of cloud privacy and security and business applications.

Relevant for professionals working in banking, communications, manufacturing, defence, agriculture, the course is also intended to provide an understanding of virtualisation, when virtual images of computers can be created and distributed rather than deploying actual computers to data centres. “Now with the emergence of the cloud, different software tools have come into the picture,” Rehman says.


The recent public relations disasters swamping both tennis and cricket have highlighted the need for professional sports management in many sporting codes in Australia. Deakin University offers a four-unit post-graduate Graduate Certificate of Business (Sport Management) designed to provide a grounding and a suite of skills for administrators who need some professional skill backfill, and for career-changers who are considering a professional job in sports management.

“There’s a need for greater professionalisation, to be aware of the bigger issues, to think through processes, to think through structures, to bring in best practice from a governance and a management perspective,” says Deakin’s business and law faculty associate dean Colin Higgins. “It’s critical, across all codes.”

Offered online, the four-unit certificate course covers a range of subjects, from the structure of the sector, how it operates and the regulatory environment; managing and developing staff and volunteers; marketing, which Higgins says is critically important considering the complexity of sports rights and broadcasting and the competition to attract funding, and finally financing, which includes accounting, fundraising and income diversification.

A pathway to a masters, the course is a popular one, Higgins says, particularly more recently, with the trend to professionalisation in sport. “It’s no longer just a sector for jocks or retired sports people, it’s seen as a credible career pathway.”


Graduates interested in pursuing a career in languages can boost their teaching skills by taking the University of Canberra’s Graduate Certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Foreign Language Teaching.

The course attracts a wide range of students from different backgrounds and promotes the exchange of ideas, says program director and University of Canberra language lecturer Eleni Petraki, adding that the course introduces students to the rules and patterns of languages.

Most of the course students do speak another language, she says. “But even if students don’t speak another language, they will understand the differences in the structure of sentences and rules around creating sentences that gives them an insight into how other languages are formed.”

Teachers looking to add language-teaching to their resumes use the course to develop their skills and teach students from non-English speaking backgrounds. A graduate TESOL certificate is required by professional institutions which provide English-language tuition for migrant and refugee programs.

Taught either on-line or face-to-face, the one-semester course covers four units: language teaching practice, which includes a practical placement; language teaching methodology – an introduction to teaching methods and techniques; either English grammar or an introduction to linguistics; and either language acquisition or language and social context.


Curtin University’s Undergraduate Certificate in Psychology attracts students from all over Australia who want to understand more about the human mind and how it functions. Run through Open University Australia, the four-unit short course is fully online and open to all.

“There’s a recognition that in the current world psychology is an important skill; whether you’re working in the field or not, it’s important to be able to relate to people,” says courses and majors coordinator David Garratt-Reed, a clinical psychologist and senior lecturer at Curtin’s school of population health.

Some students, he adds, want an introduction to psychology, others use the course to get the equivalent of an ATAR, health professionals use it to upskill in specific areas, and others simply for interest’s sake.

The course’s four subjects include an introduction to psychology; the science and professional practice of psychology; foundations of psychology, and an introduction to health psychology. The course credits can be credited to bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Two of the units provide a general introduction to different psychology topics, such as perception, cognition, intelligence, psychological disorders and psychological treatments. The science and professional practice in psychology unit is an overview of the field of psychology, comparing different areas, such as clinical psychology, counselling psychology and organisational psychology.


Accounting for most diagnoses under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, autism presents a wide range of challenges for professionals in the disability sector.

Research during the Covid-19 pandemic found the belief that therapists and health professionals did not fully understand autism was the biggest barrier for those seeking support, says Dawn Adams, an associate professor and autism expert at Griffith University. “People are recognising the importance of learning about autism in order to provide better support,” she adds.

Griffith’s online short Graduate Certificate in Autism Studies, with government-supported reduced fees, comprises four units providing a broad introduction to autism. These include an understanding of how the condition was once perceived and how it is perceived now and how it is experienced by different groups, ranging from those with minimal verbal language to adults who have been successfully “camouflaging” their condition for many years.

A multi-disciplinary team teaches the course, covering clinical psychology, speech and language pathology, occupational therapy and neuro-psychology. As far as possible, the voices of autistic adults and parents with children on the autism spectrum are included, Adams says.

Those attracted to the course include teachers, health professionals, parents and relatives of autistic individuals, and many others. “We even had an architect – he wanted to help his team design buildings that were more autistic-friendly.”


Many of the students attracted to the University Western Sydney’s online Undergraduate Certificate in Counselling and Mental Health are over 25 and looking for a new career path. Open to all Australian citizens over the age of 18, the popular government-supported course provides a broad introduction to the aspects of psychology and social sciences relevant to the field of counselling.

Undergraduate certificates program manager Mitchell Liddle says that although the course does not qualify students to become counsellors, it provides a broad introduction to the field. A qualification in itself, the certificate course is the equivalent to one semester of a relevant bachelor’s degree and it can be credited to further study.

“It really is people coming from all walks of life; we had a chef come through,” Liddle says, noting that mental health has been an important issue since the pandemic began, and Australians are known for a reluctance to confront mental health problems.

The comprises four set units: understanding society; the individual in society; mental health in the community; and human services intervention strategies.

“It’s a foundation course, it really looks at the broader issues of society,” Liddle says. “Mental health doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People don’t get depression out of nothing. There’s a need to understand the wider society issues – the fact that men don’t talk about mental health is a societal issue, the pressure we put on people.”

The Australian