Skip to main content
Leadership & Management

Health leadership jobs in Australia

We take a look at some of the most common, new and emerging jobs in health leadership in Australia, and why forward-thinking health leaders are so needed.

By Meegan Waugh Published 27/09/2022

Leadership is a valuable skillset for any professional, but it’s absolutely critical in health care. Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increased demand for health leadership to deal with complex health matters from pandemics to digital transformation. 

Although there isn’t a standard definition in Australia, health leadership is the ability of an individual to identify and address priorities by providing strategic direction to multiple stakeholders within the health system for improved health services (BMC Health Services Research, accessed 6 July 2022). 

The healthcare industry faces many complex challenges that leaders must help their administrative and clinical staff navigate – including rising costs, emerging technology, advancements in clinical practice, as well as changing regulations; often with finite resources. 

Health care - the largest employing industry

The 2021 Australian Jobs Report lists health care and social assistance as Australia’s largest employing industry (National Skills Commission, accessed 6 July). By 2025, the number of health professionals is projected to increase by 15.2 per cent.  

Stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that in May 2022, job vacancies were up by 131.5 per cent compared to pre-COVID-19 reporting of February 2020, equating to almost 70,000 open job vacancies (ABS, accessed 6 July). The Australian Government has already identified key areas to build out healthcare capacity including increased availability of hospital beds and new respiratory clinics. 

There are many job opportunities in public and private health hospitals and clinics. You may also want to apply your clinical or relevant leadership experience to a new role in a government health department or peak bodies or community organisations. 

In the private sector, there is an emerging industry driven by the major consulting firms, seeking health leaders to join and help healthcare organisations implement complex change across areas like digital health records, improving patient care and utilising data for decision making. 

Employment website SEEK puts a health team leader salary at $70,000–120,000 (SEEK, accessed 6 July 2022). The average salary of a Chief Medical Officer is almost $275,000 (Payscale, accessed 6 July 2022).  

Public health needs leaders to develop policy

Pharmacist Nick Wilson has evolved his career to include teaching, working for AHPRA as a Pharmacy Board Examiner, and in 2021 taking a role in the Victorian Department of Health as Manager of Projects and Policy in the Immunisation Unit. 

“I never quite knew where my career would land. I knew that I didn't want to be a pharmacist for my whole life. And I just took the opportunities as they came,” he says. 

Nick used his experience as a pharmacist to help address a gap in health care – getting pharmacists to assist with providing immunisations.  

After developing a nationally rolled out training program through the Pharmacy Guild, Nick took this experience to transition into a role in vaccination training and workforce planning at the Victorian Department of Health. This provided further opportunities within the department to move into the immunisation unit. 

“In terms of health leadership, we've really looked at some of the key barriers for accessing vaccinations this year, and try to identify how we can remove those,” he says. 

Health leaders must tackle challenges head on

Like any industry, health leaders face a number of challenges in the sector. Navigating a crisis like the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic might be front of mind but it’s not the only challenge the sector faces. 

Growing population and immigration numbers in both urban and rural settings pose challenges on how to best understand and provide adequate health care amid rising chronic illnesses and an ageing population (Healthtimes, accessed 6 July 2022). 

Other areas include the adoption of new health technology like robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), and the associated ethical challenges. Also, the need for an ‘open health’ sharing of health information – and how that information is managed – will continue to challenge policy makers and health leaders (PWC, accessed 6 July 2022). 

The other issue will be managing the ongoing skills shortage and training gaps as the workforce demand increases and large undersupply of clinical workforce expected. 

“I think there's definitely a lot more leadership roles needed in health planning. From an infrastructure perspective, health planning has increased massively because the number of issues that we're dealing with have also grown exponentially,” says Nick. 

Who should consider health leadership?

Health leaders require an ability to think of the ‘big picture’ and hold a clear vision for their impact on the health system. Like any good leader, being an effective communicator, mentor and collaborator are key. Also, integrity, ethics and empathy are essential skills to succeed in health leadership. 

You might have a strong clinical foundation you can transfer to your new career path, bringing in your critical thinking and patient-centred approach to make meaningful change. 

Or, you may not have direct clinical experience, but instead bring years of project management or system analysis and complex problem-solving skills needed for the many moving parts a health leader faces. 

“It's all about being a good listener. Understanding the issues and getting down to what the big issues that you're trying to solve are,” says Nick. 

“There's a great leader that I look to who always asks, when dealing with hospitals and health providers, ‘What's the problem that you want us to solve for you?’ rather than trying to sell them a solution.” 

Regardless of your background, upskilling through postgraduate study will give you the core competencies you need to succeed in your health leadership role. 

Study options for a health leadership career

The decision to pursue a new career path through postgraduate study is a personal one, and one that needs to fit in with your lifestyle, especially when studying online. More than 80 per cent of healthcare workers have a post-school qualification (National Skills Commission, accessed 6 July). 

Want to know more? Review healthcare leadership and management courses and choose the right degree to transform your career.