6Finding your industry, from typical “backpacker jobs” to skilled work

Finding your industry, from typical “backpacker jobs” to skilled work

Defining your priorities

What’s your main goal in Australia? Travelling or working? Enjoying the backpacker culture or discovering the Australian way of life and professional environment? Are you trying to fund your trip or save money for the distant future? Are you going to settle somewhere or bum around the country?

Define your priority to narrow your job search. Most backpackers who spend most of their time on the road tend to apply for casual positions and work minimum-wage jobs for a few weeks. However, if you’d rather settle somewhere for a while, you may be interested in skilled work to gain experience and maybe plan a future in Australia.

Applying for entry-level and minimum wage jobs

Plenty of industries are constantly hiring casual employees because workload is seasonal and turnover is high. You are usually trained on the spot and your schedule is often flexible. These jobs are perfect for backpackers who are looking for a pay cheque rather than career development.

Fruit picking industry

Fruit picking jobs encompass many harvest jobs and farm-related activities like packing fruits or vegetables, weeding, pruning, thinning, planting trees, etc. Harvest jobs are a quintessential Australian and backpacker experience but it’s hard work!

Note that the Australian government “rewards” backpackers who work in this industry—fruit picking is a gateway to a second Working Holiday Visa. Indeed, if you complete 3 months (88 days) of “specified work” (it includes fruit picking) in a “designated area” over the period of your stay in Australia, you may be eligible for a second WHV. As of July 1, 2019, you may even be able to apply for a third-year WHV.

Read Fruit Picking Jobs in Australia – What, Where, How (and Why!) for more info on the different activities and their pros and cons, work conditions and wages, harvest times, picking techniques and how to apply for a second Working Holiday Visa to Australia.

Restaurant and bar industry

Jobs range from busser, server, barman/barmaid to even “tout,” a job where you have to stand outside the restaurant with menus and convince passersby they’ve just found the spot to enjoy a meal or drink. This is the kind of industry where experience is often preferred but technically not exactly necessary as long as you’re willing to learn fast.

Note that Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) training is mandatory for licensees and staff selling, offering or serving liquor (read this chapter  for more info). Gaming venue staff must also complete approved Responsible Service of Gaming (RSG) training (i.e. if you work in a casino).

If your English isn’t that great yet, you may want to apply in “world food” restaurants and eateries where staff may speak your mother tongue and customers enjoy your accent (i.e. if you’re Korean, try applying in Korean restaurants!).

Hospitality and tourism industry

The labour shortage is such that a few years ago, the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) suggested the industry should be a “designated field,” like fruit picking, to encourage backpackers to complete three months of work in this industry in order to apply for a second WHV. Only the tourism and hospitality industry in northern Australia was added as “specified work,” but only for those applying for a second Work and Holiday Visa Subclass 462, not for the Working Holiday Visa Subclass 417.

Typical positions include front-desk clerk, housekeeping, porter, etc. On the East Coast, a popular tourist destination, hostels, restaurants, stores and attractions (i.e. Whitsunday tour boats) are often looking for seasonal workers.

Overview of high season in Australia (show up in the right place at the right time!)

City (state/territory) Month
Sydney (New South Wales) December-February
Perth/Freemantle/Margaret River (Western Australia) December-February
Melbourne (Victoria) December-March
Tasmania December-February
Gold Coast (Queensland) Mid-October-End of January
Cairns and North of Queensland (Far North Queensland) June-August
Exmouth (Western Australia) March-November
Darwin (Northern Territory) May-October
Alice Springs (Northern Territory) June-August
Byron Bay (New South Wales) December-February

Roadhouse jobs

Huh? Yeah, a “roadhouse” in Australia is a service station, usually on a major intercity route. The facility sells fuel and since there are usually no other services around, it also provides car maintenance and repairs, offers diner-style food and maybe a place to stay (motel or campground attached).

Roadhouse jobs usually come with room and board, so it’s a great way to save money. However, you’ll be expected to multitask—housekeeping, maintenance, food prep, customer service, etc. Warning, roadhouses also are usually located in very remote areas and employers are looking for someone who will stick around for a few months at least.

Retail industry

In franchise stores or small business, you’ll be in a customer-facing position where communication skills are paramount so it’s best to be a native English speaker or fluent in English. Strong sales skills and product knowledge are a must.

Food delivery jobs

“Gig economy” companies like Menulog, Uber Eats, Deliveroo and most recently DoorDash are popular Down Under as well. To join the fun, you’ll need a bike, or better, an electric bike or scooter. Note that wearing a helmet is mandatory, even if you just ride a bike—and yes, you’ll be fined if you’re not wearing your helmet!

Each platform has a different on-boarding process for “delivery partners”—the key word is “partner” since you won’t be an employee but an independent contractor (so no minimum hourly rate, sick days, etc.). As an independent contractor, your tax rate is 15% and you will have to pay the lump sum to the ATO when you leave Australia or at the end of the fiscal year (June 30). For more info, read Taxes and superannuation 101 for working holiday makers in Australia. See Uber Eats and Deliveroo for a list of ID documents to provide.

The best opportunities to make money are in large cities, i.e. Sydney or Melbourne. Experts claim that rush hour is from 7:30 a.m. (for breakfast and coffee delivery), then 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for lunch, and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner delivery. Weekends can get even busier, especially on rainy days—less competition, more people staying home instead of going out to eat.

That said, you will have to be comfortable navigating the city and dealing with local traffic rules—oh, and remember Australians drive on the left. Avoid risking your life (unlike them!) and be prepared to work very hard.

Food delivery is rarely a full-time job so it’s unlikely you can make enough to survive.

Event industry

You could be tasked with distributing flyers or get an usher job during special events (concert, tradeshow, festival, etc.). Typical duties include checking tickets, directing people to their assigned seats, distributing programmes, answering questions and assisting people in finding restrooms and refreshments.

Car wash jobs

A car detailer cleans vehicles according to company standards or client specifications, including performing detail inspections, thoroughly washing, buffing, and waxing exteriors, vacuuming, steaming, and deodorizing interiors, and keeping records related to gas levels and the condition of the vehicle. Rent-a-car companies often hire detailers for their fleet.

Car wash attendants usually work in car wash companies and customers bring their own vehicles.

Landscaper and gardener jobs

Do you have a green thumb? Look for work opportunities in resorts or contact local entrepreneurs who may need extra hands.

Moving industry and construction industry

Both often need casual workers, experienced or not, for physical labour. Note that for construction jobs, White Card (general construction induction card) training is mandatory. Read the next chapter for more info.

Customer service industry

There are plenty of customer service jobs, mostly in call centres. You could be handling calls for all kinds of companies—telco providers, insurance groups, financial institutions, etc. An excellent level of English is required for these positions.

Second-language teacher

Is your mother tongue Spanish, Korean or Mandarin? A local language school may be interested in your skills! You could also post an ad offering your services for a set hourly rate or browse tutoring jobs to help students after school.

Factory work

This type of repetitive work can be surprisingly well paid, although it’s tougher than it seems and you may have to work shifts starting very early in the morning or working through the night. Look for food processing work (meat, fish, poultry) or packing jobs.

Road traffic controller jobs

It’s basically standing beside road construction areas with a “Stop/Slow” sign to direct traffic. Average hourly rate is $32 but it can be boring, uncomfortable (you’re exposed to heat, rain, dust, etc.) and dangerous (… the part where you’re standing in the middle of the traffic!). “Control Traffic with a Stop/slow bat” training is required (see next chapter for details).

Sales jobs

Cold calls, warm calls, hot leads, sales pitches and closing—is it your thing? Then you can explore sales positions in call centres or door-to-door sales. Excellent communication skills are required.

Admin jobs

This very broad category encompasses tasks like bookkeeping, filing, data entry, etc. Excellent communication and computer skills as well as experience drafting documents and managing projects are required for jobs like administrative assistant, but you can also find entry-level positions as a data entry or mail clerk.

Aiming for a skilled position

Defining the challenge

Some WHV holders are happy to take a gap year but for others, the “working” part of the visa is the main goal. If you want to gain international experience in your field or plan your long-term future in Australia, go for it! There’s no fine print that says all WHV holders must get a fruit picking job (…although national defence may be out of reach for now!).

Your main challenge will be visa condition 8547 – Not working for one employer for more than 6 months. What is known as the “6-month work limitation” can be an issue in the professional world because it takes a while to bring a skilled worker up to speed and employers tend to like when new team members stick around for a few years. It will be up to you to convince a potential employer you can accomplish a lot in six months or you could find a (legal!) away around the limitation.

If you’re aiming for a skilled position, you will need to do some prep work before your trip, including checking if your profession is regulated, having your diplomas and certifications translated, and maybe start building a network from abroad.

Investigate labour shortages in Australia

In some fields or industries, there are not enough qualified candidates to fill the marketplace demands. You will have a better chance of landing a job in these fields or industries because any practical manager would rather fill a position for six months than leave it vacant.

are also available for individuals who are qualified to work or train in an eligible skilled occupation in Australia and can meet all other requirements. If you’re planning a future in Australia, this is a great way to work your way (literally!) to permanent residency.

Talent shortage in Australia – 2018 ManpowerGroup report

In the 2018 “Solving the Talent Shortage Build, Buy, Borrow and Bridge” report, the ManpowerGroup identified the top 10 most in-demand skills in Australia:

  • Skilled Trades – Electricians, welders, mechanics (note that these occupations usually require Australian certifications or official international equivalents).
  • Sales Representatives – B2B, B2C, contact centres.
  • Engineers – Chemical, electrical, civil and mechanical (note that this is a regulated occupation in some states).
  • Management/Executive
  • Healthcare Professionals – Doctors, nurses & other non-nursing health professionals
  • Accounting & Finance – Certified accountants, auditors, financial analysts
  • Professionals – Project managers, lawyers, researchers
  • Technicians – Quality controllers, technical staff
  • Teachers
  • IT – Cyber security experts, network administrators, technical support

Do keep in mind that the ManpowerGroup offers staffing solutions (so the report may not be completely neutral) and that these are trends, not a guarantee you will be hired for any of these positions.

National, state and territory skill shortages – September 2018 research report from the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business

The Australian Government regularly carries out research to identify skill shortages in the Australian labour market and the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business reports are available online.

These reports are a great tool to investigate the local job market and potential opportunities. However, note that there’s no guarantee you will find your dream job just because your occupation is in demand. Skill shortages are caused by many factors—local candidates aren’t skilled or experienced enough, salary offered is too low, etc.

In the tables below:

* means there’s a regional shortage (i.e. outside of large cities)
** means there’s a shortage in metropolitan areas (e.g. in Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney)

=== New South Wales ===

Industry Occupational labour shortage in New South Wales
Automotive trades automotive electrician / panel beater / vehicle painter / motor mechanic
Construction trades bricklayer / carpenter / joiner / fibrous plasterer / plumber / cabinet maker
Engineering professions (regulated occupation) civil engineering professional / mechanical engineer
Engineering trades sheet metal trade worker / metal fabricator / fitter / metal machinist (first class) / welder
Health professions medical diagnostic radiographer / sonographer / occupational therapist* / physiotherapist
Nurses enrolled nurse
Other professions and trades surveyor / chef / air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic / hairdresser

=== Victoria ===


Occupational labour shortage in Victoria
Automotive trades automotive electrician / vehicle painter
Construction trades bricklayer / carpenter / joiner
Engineering professions (regulated occupation) civil engineering professional / mechanical engineer**
Engineering trades sheet metal trade worker / metal fabricator
Health professions medical diagnostic radiographer* / hospital and retail pharmacist* / physiotherapist
Nurses midwife** / registered nurse*
Other professions and trades accountant / surveyor / baker / hairdresser

=== Queensland ===

Industry Occupational labour shortage in Queensland
Construction trades bricklayer / plumber* / cabinet maker / glazier / wall and floor tiler
Health professions sonographer / physiotherapist
Nurses midwife** / registered nurse*
Other professions and trades baker / air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic*

=== South Australia ===

Industry Occupational labour shortage in South Australia
Automotive trades panel beater / vehicle painter / motor mechanic / diesel motor mechanic
Construction trades bricklayer / carpenter / joiner / fibrous plasterer / painting trade worker
Engineering professions (regulated occupation) civil engineering professional / mechanical engineer / electrical engineer
Engineering trades sheet metal trade worker / metal machinist (first class)
Nurses midwife
Other professions and trades hairdresser / child care centre manager / architect / surveyor / baker / chef

=== Western Australia ===

Industry Occupational labour shortage in Western Australia
Automotive trades panel beater / vehicle painter / motor mechanic
Construction trades bricklayer
Engineering professions (regulated occupation) civil engineering professional / electrical engineer
Engineering trades fitter / metal machinist (first class)
Health professions hospital/retail pharmacist* / physiotherapist / medical diagnostic radiographer / sonographer
Other professions and trades child care centre manager / chef / hairdresser

=== Tasmania ===

Industry Occupational labour shortage in Tasmania
Construction trades bricklayer / carpenter / joiner / fibrous plasterer / plumber / cabinet maker / painting trade worker
Engineering trades sheet metal trade worker / metal fabricator / fitter
Health professions physiotherapist*
Other professions and trades hairdresser

=== Northern Territory ===

Industry Occupational labour shortage in Northern Territory
Construction trades plumber / cabinet maker
Health professions medical diagnostic radiographer* / hospital and retail pharmacist* / physiotherapist / occupational therapist
Other professions and trades hairdresser / chef* / baker* / child care centre manager* / accountant

=== Australian Capital Territory ===

Industry Occupational labour shortage in the Australian Capital Territory
Construction trades bricklayer / carpenter / joiner / fibrous plasterer / plumber / cabinet maker / painting trade worker
Other professions and trades enrolled nurse / civil engineering professional / medical diagnostic radiographer / sonographer / physiotherapist / motor mechanic / metal fabricator / panel beater / electrician / air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic / hairdresser

Eligible skilled occupations in Australia – Department of Home Affairs

The Department of Home Affairs encourages skilled worker immigration to meet the Australian labour market demands. The list of eligible skilled occupations is regularly reviewed and updated.

There are four lists:

  • The Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL)
  • The Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL)
  • The Regional Occupation List (ROL)
  • The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)

You will find more details about eligible occupations and visa options on the Department of Home Affairs Skilled occupation list page.

Where can I find current info about job market trends in Australia?

Job Outlook 

Job Outlook is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. The website provides information on the job market, industries and jobs expected to grow, average weekly pay, and opportunities in different industries.

You can explore industries to check the five-year growth outlook for many job profiles. Note that the outlook isn’t state/territory specific.

The beta Explore Australia tool offers more details. You can explore by state, region, largest jobs, growing jobs, skills demand, etc.

State and territory

government job websites offer precious information on booming industries—if you don’t know yet where to go in Australia and if you’re flexible, check them out before the trip, it could make the job hunt easier.

SEEK, a general job search website

SEEK is one of Australia’s main job search websites, offering job search tools and useful resources in Career guide.


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Cofondatrice de pvtistes.net, j'ai fait 2 PVT, au Canada et en Australie. Deux expériences incroyables ! Je vous retrouve régulièrement sur nos comptes Insta et Tiktok @pvtistes avec plein d'infos utiles !
Cofounder of pvtistes.net. I went to Canada and Australia on Working Holiday aventures. It was amazing!

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