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Study Vocational or University for Career and Employment Outcomes?

From Jackson Stiles in The New Daily on vocational education training and university career and employment outcomes:

Which will pump up your pay packet faster – TAFE or uni?  Winning a place at university has long been considered the holy grail for school-leavers, but would they be better off attending the less glamorous, but more practical, TAFE?

VET TAFE Technical and Higher Education or University for Employment

Career and Employment Outcomes for Students

Jane Alia completed a Certificate III in Dental Assisting while studying at Darwin High School, allowing her to work and earn money in Years 11 and 12.

Jane, a South Sudanese refugee from Uganda, continues to work part-time as a dental assistant and considers her traineeship to be one of her “biggest lifetime achievements”.

For her, studying at TAFE was “more fun because you actually did what you read”. Now with a vocational course under her belt, she has chosen to go on to university, and hopes one day (if she can find the money) to transfer into tertiary-level dentistry.

Unlike Jane, not everyone can attend both TAFE and university, and the choice between them can be very tough. University is by far the more popular option, with 1.2 million students enrolled in higher education last year, compared with 528,800 at TAFE. But should we be piling up thousands of dollars in debt to get a bachelor’s degree, when there are much cheaper hands-on qualifications up for grabs?


Given that university costs so much, you would expect there to be a huge gap in earnings between those who choose TAFE and those who go on to university. But it isn’t always the case.

GPs and solicitors still have some of the highest starting salaries, but electricians, for example, can start out on $62,000 once fully qualified – that’s more than dentists, teachers and accountants….

Difficulty level

The stereotype is that smart kids go off to uni, while those who struggle at school end up in a trade. But according to qualified plumber Michael Rawnsley, 25, who originally wanted to study a bachelor of sports science, TAFE is just as rigorous.

To get qualified after finishing his Certificate III, Rawnsley had to sit a two-day practical exam. He passed all six units with flying colours, earning an apprenticeship award in the process….

What it’s like when you hit the real world

Phoebe Lines tried studying journalism at La Trobe University in Melbourne, but found that the restrictive classroom environment wasn’t right for her. After returning home to Byron Bay, she switched into event management at TAFE – and hasn’t looked back since.

Phoebe has used the hands-on experience of running festivals, Xavier Rudd gigs, and the national tour of Toni Childs gained during her time at TAFE to start her own event management company – Wondercat Productions.

For uni students who lack this sort of practical experience, it can be very tough finding a job…..


The best decision will, of course, vary depending on your personal circumstances.

According to Norton, there is research to suggest that for guys with average to low high school results, the choice of a trade is “probably a good one”, whereas university can be a better option for women in the same category. 

For those leaving school, or wanting to change careers, it might be good to keep in mind this study, which found that as education levels go up, happiness goes down.

Perhaps the more we learn about the universe, the unhappier we get.

Excellent article, and with increasing fees, TAFE, vocational or technical training is a good post secondary school choice to start working, then consider higher education and university later.  However, while TAFEs struggle with reduced numbers of international students due to visa and immigration restrictions, and advantageous visa benefits given to universities and the higher education sector, they are missing a significant organic non government subsidy.

For more information, job outlook and prospects about careers, occupations, employment and work in Australia click through.


2 Responses to “Study Vocational or University for Career and Employment Outcomes?”

  1. […] Study Vocational or University for Career and Employment Outcomes?  ‘Which will pump up your pay packet faster – TAFE or uni?  Winning a place at university has long been considered the holy grail for school-leavers, but would they be better off attending the less glamorous, but more practical, TAFE? […]

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