The 2014 Federal Budget has drastically changed the education landscape, with universities free to charge whatever they like for courses, while the income at which your HECS repayments kick in has been lowered and interest rates on debt increased.
So now, more than ever, consumers need to make sure they get some bang for their education buck. Sadly, though, there are too many courses that fall short on job prospects - and it’s not just ancient history and fine arts. There are vocationally oriented courses which may also let their students down.
The first one that comes to mind is a new-ish qualification offered to fitness professionals, the Diploma of Fitness. Marketing for the diploma claims that graduates will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with medical and allied health professionals in a range of settings including medical and rehab clinics.
However, the peak bodies representing physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and occupation therapists are opposed to its introduction. They advised that their members would not be providing placement opportunities for those undertaking the Diploma, and wouldn’t refer patients to them. Their main objection was that fitness professionals weren’t comprehensively trained to deal with the health and safety requirements of clinically vulnerable people.
There may be other benefits to the Diploma, perhaps providing an edge over personal trainers and other fitness trainers with a Certificate IV level qualification. And some allied health professionals may be willing to employ them or refer their patients, contrary to the advice of the peak bodies.
But it concerns me that students could pay good money and start working towards their Diploma, only to find it may not lead to working with clinical cases as they’d hoped.
Another example of doubtful job outcomes is a Diploma of Counselling course a CHOICE member had signed up to. The course was from a reputable university, and carried the government’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) stamp of approval. However it wasn’t one of the courses accredited by the peak body for counsellors, the Australian Counselling Association (ACA).
This doesn’t mean the course is inferior to the ACA’s accredited courses. It may simply mean that the institution running the course hadn’t applied to have it accredited by the ACA.
For our member, however, it meant that she wouldn’t be eligible to join the ACA, and carry that all-important ACA member certification on her promotional material.
When anyone can call themselves a counsellor, even with few or no qualifications, membership of the ACA provides consumers with the assurance that the counsellor has undergone adequate training. Certainly CHOICE recommends consumers look for peak body membership as a means of guaranteeing a counsellor is adequately qualified and accountable.
Furthermore, with some health insurers offering rebates for their members using ACA-certified counsellors, there are other potential losses for those who aren't members.
Like the Diploma of Fitness graduates, there are other job opportunities, and the diploma isn’t worthless. But her opportunities are more limited, and our member regrets having chosen that course.
Do you know of any vocationally oriented courses that didn't lead to the jobs they promised?