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Studying at University and TAFE

Key points

  • University and TAFE are two options that provide further education, training and pathways to employment. 
  • If you didn't study after school, or want to change your job or industry, you can do further education and training at any time in your career.
  • Start planning early – once you have identified one or more careers or jobs that interest you, find out as much as you can about the education and training requirements for each job.

University and TAFE

University and TAFE (short for Technical and Further Education, and also referred to as vocational training and education) are two  options that provide further education, training, and pathways to employment.

Whether you attend university or TAFE depends on a number of factors. If you’re unsure of whether to attend university or TAFE, you may want to consider things such as:

  • what qualification or certification is required to work in the job or career that interests you
  • how the qualification or certification might give you entry to further education or training to get you the job you want
  • your preferred way of learning
  • for how long you want to study
  • the availability of jobs or demand for workers in your chosen career once you’ve graduated

Start planning early – once you have identified one or more careers or jobs that interest you, find out as much as you can about the education and training requirements for each job. You can explore the various courses available at university and TAFE by visiting their websites, and by attending university or TAFE Open Days. These Open Days usually occur at least once every year and provide you with the opportunity to visit the campus, speak with the teaching staff and current students about different courses offered. Also what types of learning activities are involved in each course and job opportunities after graduation. You might even have the opportunity to try some hands-on activities that are relevant to the courses. Check out our article on Transitioning from School to Tertiary Education for more information.

What to Expect at University

Universities offer a range of degrees that prepare students for a range of careers. Many students leave high school and begin an undergraduate course, such as an Associate Degree or a Bachelor’s degree. Students who complete their Bachelor’s degree can undertake an honours year to conduct a research project, or another postgraduate course, such as a Graduate Certificate or a Master’s degree (if they choose).

University courses have an academic focus to learning – they generally involve a lot of reading, writing, and oral, written, or practical assessments and exams. Depending on your course, you may have significantly fewer contact hours at university than you did in high school. This means that the time you spend in class will be limited, and you’ll need to spend more time doing independent study. Additionally, many university courses offer work-integrated learning opportunities, such as internships and fieldwork.

What to Expect at TAFE

TAFEs offer Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses. There are also private colleges that offer the same nationally recognised training that TAFEs do – these are Registered Training Organisations (also known as RTOs). The VET courses are often practical in nature and include training for jobs such as electricians, plumbers, surveyors, hair stylists and beauty therapists, professional cooking and hospitality jobs.

Students at TAFE must also complete assessments to demonstrate they have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills, but instead of receiving a mark (e.g. 75%), they receive a Pass/Fail for assessments. Most TAFEs follow a national curriculum, so the learning experience will be similar no matter which TAFE across Australia you choose to study. Some VET courses provide opportunities to combine study with paid work through a traineeship or apprenticeship.

To search for an accredited vocational education provider, visit the Australian Government’s MySkills website.

Where to live when you study

In Australia it is common for students to stay living with their parents when they move from school to university, TAFE or college. In other parts of the world this is less common: students will often move to another city to go to a tertiary institution.

Deciding where to live when you study is a personal choice but one which needs careful planning. You will need to consider if you can afford to live away from home and if you are ready in other ways too, for example do you know how to cook, clean and manage your money? Will you have enough social support?

It is good to know that there are many accommodation options for tertiary students. These include:

  • Living in University-managed student accommodation. This is usually on, or near, the campus and often involves dorm-like accommodation with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities.
  • Living in a student house. This is usually a privately rented house which is shared by a group of students. They may advertise a room on student social media sites.
  • Living with a host family. This is usually managed by an agency which specialises in placing international students with a host family.

myWAY Employability is an initiative of the Autism CRC, which receives funding from the Australian Government

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