Australian Community Workers Association Australian Community Workers Association

Study options

When choosing a course, it’s tempting to go with the cheapest or the shortest but rarely does this equate to quality. It is a case of buyer beware.

You will want to find the course that gives you the best chance of employment in your chosen field after graduation. Using the ACWA accredited course finder is the easiest way to identify a credible course.

This is not about drumming up business for us; ACWA is a not-for-profit professional association working in the best interests of the profession. Ensuring good qualifications are available for aspiring community workers is one of our priorities.

In recent years, we have seen more and more providers entering the market and a notable increase in the number of courses offered online. While increased options are a positive for accessibility they need to translate into good outcomes for students.

ACWA accredited courses are those that we have determined meet the industry standards for course content; course duration; fieldwork placements; teaching staff and student resources.

Accordingly, ACWA accredited courses are officially recognised by many of the large employers which means you will not miss out on placement and career options. The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) in Victoria, for example, only provides VET-level work experience placements to students from ACWA accredited courses. A range of occupations within DFFH, Territory Families in Northern Territory, Department of Health in Western Australia and Queensland Health also require either an ACWA accredited qualification or full membership of ACWA.

What to look for and what to avoid

With so many options available the choices can be overwhelming. Before you enrol in a course you should ask about the level of support you can expect from staff; the provision of 400 hours of practical fieldwork; access to resources; and whether there is sufficient face to face teaching. Above anything you need to be assured that you will be work-ready when you graduate.

Your first and best option is to find a course we have determined meets industry standards.

We strive to accredit courses in every state and territory, however, in some states the diplomas are not being taught at the minimum national standard and are not recognised by major employers. In these instances, there are normally ACWA accredited degrees being offered that meet industry expectations.

A quick word to the wise: be on the lookout for tricky terminology. Sometimes providers will say their course is ‘accredited’ or ‘nationally recognised’ but this does not mean the course is ACWA accredited. Regulatory accreditation has an emphasis on educational standards and is mandatory whether the field is medicine or music. We offer third party accreditation that goes beyond this and specifically looks at whether the course meets community sector standards. If a course is ACWA accredited, it will say so. It will also be listed on our course finder.

Ask these questions

We understand course cost, duration and location may limit your personal options. If you are unable to study an ACWA accredited course, do as much research as possible before enrolling in a non-accredited course.

How is the course delivered?

We don’t recommend courses that are 100% online. There are certain components (like basic counselling) which need to be taught face to face. If this type of course is not a realistic option for you, blended learning is preferable – a course taught primarily online but with mandatory on campus components.

How long will the course take?

Be wary of any diploma that is less than 18 months in duration and any bachelor’s degree less than 3 years when studied full time. Unduly short courses do not allow sufficient time to gain the competencies needed.

How many fieldwork placement hours are there?

For diplomas, the training package requires a minimum of 100 hours of placement, however, feedback from the industry is that this is insufficient to adequately prepare students for the workforce. We have set our accreditation requirements at 400 hours and do not recommend any less.

How are fieldwork placements found?

A good quality provider will have strong links to industry and will take responsibility for finding placements for its students. Finding placements by yourself is not easy, you can ask anyone who has tried.

What sort of support is available to students?

Studying often involves juggling other responsibilities like family or work commitments, not to mention the unexpected such as a health concern. It’s a good idea to find out upfront what a provider’s policies are on such things as financial support or deferring study.

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