University or Vocational Education?

vocational education or university

University or Vocational Education?

When it comes to deciding if you want to pursue a university degree or a vocational education course, it can be difficult to work out which one makes the most sense for you.  

Deciding between university and vocational education means weighing up your options, understanding what each pathway can lead to and making an informed decision. Here are all the questions you should consider to make an informed decision between university and vocational education.  

What’s the difference between university and vocational education? 

University and vocational education are both higher education systems that people generally engage with once they finish school. Some vocational education and training (VET) programs can be undertaken with a year 10 education, while others require year 12 or higher to enter into.

Entry into most university degrees is limited to those who have completed their high school education and have achieved a certain level ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank). Though there are other pathways to university if you don’t achieve the ATAR required for your preferred course.  

With university education becoming more accessible to school-leavers, more are taking up the task of the 3-4-year slog a university degree brings and entering the HELP fee program. Some with no real idea of what outcome this will achieve for their future. 

VET focuses on employment  

On the other hand, vocational education and training is just that. It is training to prepare for a future vocation and in most cases, VET providers have far more links and partnerships within industry that also inform them on what and when changes need to be made to training programs to make graduates more employable in a competitive marketplace. 

VET providers are heavily regulated and are required to report on employment outcomes of their students to the Department of Education and Training and the Australian Quality Skills Authority (ASQA). Because of these requirements, if VET providers are not offering support for students from training through to employment, their chances of sustaining their business are little to none. University’s on the other hand have no requirement to report on job outcomes or even assist with employment strategies at all. 

So, how do you know which pathway is right for you?  

Identify your goals  

The first thing to figure out when you’re battling with the question as to whether or not to go to university, ask yourself, what is my ultimate goal? 

Does your career goal or ultimate occupation require that you hold at least a Bachelor degree? If so, the answer must be university. If you’re looking to move into an industry that doesn’t necessarily require a bachelor’s degree, it might be beneficial to research VET pathways into your career. It is a faster and cheaper option and there’ll be more employment assistance to help you get your foot in the door of your chosen profession.  

Research your options  

There are so many pathways into your career, it would be foolish to only look at one. Establish what options are open to you, consider your location, ATAR and goal. Then find out which programs and courses might be able to get you there.  

You may find that instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars and three years in a degree program, you can spend a fraction of the time and the money on a diploma that will help you get your career started.  

What’s your time investment?  

When it comes to choosing between university and VET, one factor that is drastically different is the amount of time it will take you to get qualified. With a university bachelor’s degree, you’re looking at a minimum of three years full-time to gain your qualification. Whereas a diploma in your same field might only take six months to a year to complete depending on your delivery mode.  

Understand the levels  

It can be a bit complicated but there are different levels to higher education. These levels are set our in the Australian Qualifications Framework. In VET it starts at Certificate I and II and goes up to an Advanced Diploma. These are a level 6 on the Australian Qualifications Framework. Following this you have a Bachelor’s Degree which is level 7 and then at a level 8 on the scale you have graduate certificates, bachelor’s degrees with honors and graduate diplomas, then a master’s degree. VET providers can sometimes also offer the graduate certificate and diploma qualifications as well. 

Establishing what level you need to enter your industry will help you decide which qualification you need to go after first and which level you want to achieve later in order to climb the ladder in your career.  

Look at pricing  

The average bachelor’s degree costs between $15,000 and $33,000 per year, and you’ll need to be studying for three to four years. When you compare this with the average price for a VET qualification, which is $7,700, there’s definitely an argument to be made for saving time and money with a VET course. 

Depending on which industry you want to go into and what you’re planning on doing there are courses that could be as low as a few hundred dollars that get you qualified and ready to get out into your industry.  

Look to the industry  

When deciding between VET and university study, you should look to your industry and see what the standard is. Check out professionals on LinkedIn, look up job ads and check the about section of company websites to get an idea what level of education entry-level applicants will need to get into the industry. This will help you decide what level of study you need to get started in your industry and what the industry standards are for different positions.  

How do you want to study?

When choosing between VET and university education, you can consider how you want to study.  Do you prefer online, in-person, at your own pace or within a structured classroom environment? VET and university have very different structures in terms of how your study will be delivered. With university there are often classes, lectures and tutorials that you need to attend in person, although there are some online programs available too. In VET education, depending on what you’re studying, there are more options for flexible delivery, online and at your own pace.  

If you would like some help with deciding whether you should go to university or whether a qualification from a vocational education and training provider is more your style, get in contact with our friendly team today. We’re focused on employment outcomes, so we’ll be sure to give you a recommendation that you can use to help reach that end goal! 

Alternatively, head over to The Good Universities Guide to help you make an informed decision. 

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