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Working while studying

Work experience

As an international student in Australia, gaining work experience, either through part-time, casual or voluntary work, will benefit you. Work experience in your academic discipline in particular is an advantage to employers who tend to look for more than academic ability in their future employees.

Work experience:

  • enables you to investigate the employment market;
  • provides you with hands-on skills and experience in a specific work place;
  • provides references or referees for recruitment purposes;
  • enables future employers to see you in the work place; and
  • can give you a realistic view of a possible career path.

Finding work experience in Australia

While you may be provided with some assistance through your providers' career or employment staff, finding work experience is up to you. Remember that you will be up against other domestic and international students, so you will need to be well prepared.

To seek work experience:

  • Prepare an excellent resume and have it checked by your provider's career staff;
  • Make a list of the skills and experience that you can ‘sell' to an employer;
  • Target companies you believe will benefit from your skills;
  • Research the company;
  • Write a letter to that company outlining your knowledge of the company and how you might assist them; and
  • Ask if you could talk to them about your proposal.

Vocational Placements

As part of your course of study, you may be required to undertake work-based training or a vocational work placement to gain your qualification.

Any work-based training or vocational placement component will be included in the duration of the course and will be arranged by your education provider through a formal agreement with a host employer.

As the requirements for work-based training or work placements vary significantly depending on the course you choose, you will need to check with your provider about any specific requirements.


An internship in Australia lets you gain an international perspective, while adding valuable work experience to your resume.

Some Australian universities will offer internship programs that you can do while you complete your studies. Some providers will include internship options in their programs or will help you arrange an internship placement. For more information about internship opportunities, check with your education provider.

There are also several online resources for finding an internship in Australia:


Volunteering your time is a great way to make friends and get to know other people in the Australian community.

Many community and not-for-profit organisations are always looking for hard-working volunteers with a bit of time to spare and some enthusiasm. In Australia volunteers can do anything from planting trees and working at major events, through to visiting elderly people in nursing homes. Volunteers are especially needed during school and university holidays when many fulltime volunteers go on holiday.

Volunteering opportunities may also be advertised through your education provider.

Read more about volunteering at:

Working and Student visa conditions

While your student visa automatically allows you to work up to 20 hours per week, there are a number of conditions that you will need to meet. These include:

  • You cannot commence working in Australia until you have started your course;
  • You can only work up to 20 hours per week while your course is in session. This does not include work experience you undertake as part of your course requirements;
  • Voluntary, unpaid work is not included in the 20 hour limit if:
    • it is of benefit to the community;
    • it is for a non-profit organisation;
    • it is a designated volunteer position (that is, it would not otherwise be undertaken in return for wages by an Australian resident); and
    • no remuneration, either cash or kind, is received (board and lodging excepted).
  • You can work unlimited hours during holiday periods when your course is not in session.

Many international students find that part-time work is a great way to give them a little extra money, on top of their available funds, to spend on entertainment or unexpected bills. However do not rely on wages from part-time work to support your life in Australia.

If you need more help understanding these visa conditions, contact the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) at www.immi.gov.au

Role of the Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman is an independent statutory office created by the Fair Work Act 2009. Its main role is to ensure compliance with Commonwealth workplace laws.

The Fair Work Ombudsman:

  • offers you a single point of contact to get accurate advice and information about Australia's workplace relations system;
  • can explain your workplace rights and obligations;
  • investigates complaints or suspected breaches of workplace laws, awards and agreements; and
  • litigates to enforce workplace laws and stop people from doing wrong in the community.

Further information about the Fair Work Ombudsman can be found at www.fwo.gov.au

Your Rights at Work

Before you start work, make sure you're aware of your legal rights as an employee, and your responsibilities to your employer.

Don't assume that because you're an international student that you don't have rights - you do. Don't believe any employer who tells you that workplace rights do not apply to you.

For more information about your rights and responsibilities as an employee, visit Fair Work Online at www.fairwork.gov.au or call them on 131 394.

If you need the help of an interpreter, you can contact the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.

More information

Read more about your rights at work and finding work experience or vocational placements around Australia.


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