Where to After School? The Difference Between TAFE and Uni
So, you’re about to make a choice… where to after school? The good news is that there is no right or wrong answer. It’s horses for courses (pardon the pun).
If you’re grappling with the difference between TAFE and Uni to figure out which is the best study path for you, then let us help you think it through.
Once upon a time, University was where you went if you wanted to go into what is called “the Professions.” Think, Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant, Architect, Engineer, and so on. Or, Uni was your choice if you wanted to get into the world of science or research. TAFE or College on the other hand was where you went if you wanted a trade to become a Mechanic, Builder, Plumber, Hairdresser, etc.
While these differences still have some relevance, there is much more than a little crossover now with Universities and TAFE or Colleges, and the good news is that it opens up even more options for you.
Until a few years ago, Universities were where you went if you wanted a degree, while TAFE and Colleges gave you Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas.
But even that has changed. Now many TAFEs offer Degree education as part of their offering to students so the difference between TAFE and Uni has been muddied even further. Doesn’t make for an easy decision, does it?
Let’s see if we can help.
Start with the simple differences. The traditional Professions vs. Trade distinction still stands. If you want to be a Doctor or a Lawyer, an Architect, an Environment Scientist or an Engineer, your best study path a University education. If you’re after a trade, then TAFE or College is your answer.
But what about the others? If you can do your qualification at either a TAFE or a University, which should you choose?
Again, there is no right or wrong. A vocational education (one through TAFE or College) is typically cheaper than a University degree however, you may not have access to funding (funding is dependent on the individual provider as well as the course you choose.)
University Qualifications and Funding
Through University, most students have access to HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) which allows students to accumulate their uni fees in a loan account that is repayable through the Australian taxation system as you start to earn money and when your income reaches certain levels.
Some industries, in fact some companies, will require a University degree. For instance, the big accounting/advisory firms in Australia still require you to be degree qualified for some roles, as do most of the major banks for their senior roles and graduate roles. The good news, however, is we’re seeing the trend away from particular types of degrees to any degree. Firms like EY and Deloitte don’t really care what you’ve studied at Uni, they just want you to be University educated so they’re recruiting Uni grads from a wide range of disciplines not just Accounting or Business.
The prestige factor of a University degree still holds strong in some industries, but again there’s a distinct trend away from this as increasingly more Gen X and Millennials take the hiring reins and prefer to hire on attitude and ability than a piece of paper. So, don’t let the “prestige factor” dissuade you. Regardless of where or what your qualification comes from (or even if you have one) a hiring manager may well totally disregard it if you win them over as a person.
TAFE and Vocational Qualifications and Funding
TAFE and College courses are more restrictive when it comes to funding. Whether or not funding is available is determined by the type of course and the type of institution you study through. You can check and see if the course you want is funded by looking for details about VET Student Loans or check here on Study Assist.
If you’re looking at a trade, then this is definitely the best place for you. There are literally thousands of courses to choose from at levels from Certificate I through IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma and even, in some areas, Degrees.
Courses that are often the domains of colleges are typical trades like bricklaying or carpentry, hair and beauty, childcare, mechanical trades, music and performance, nursing, aged care, interior design, animal care, fitness and real estate.
Or, choose both!
There’s a number of careers you can pursue through TAFE, College or Uni. These include business, design, management, health, IT, marketing, accounting and management.
TAFE and College can also be a pathway to a University degree with your credits counting towards — and shortening the time for — your degree.
So, the world is your oyster when it comes to choices for qualifications. Make sure you do your homework, talk to people who’ve done the courses you’re considering and the career advisors at the various institutions before you make a choice. A lot of times it comes down to who teaches the course, what benefits does the institution offer such as internships, work integrated learning, student programs, and more. Any institution is lucky to have you so choose the one that will get you where you want to go while making it enjoyable in the process.
And, don’t worry if it’s the wrong choice. You can always move sideways into other courses and depending on what you’ve studied, even gain credits for some of your results.
Studying is studying, right? Wrong. These two institutions continue to spark debate over which is better – a pricier degree or a practical accreditation. Uni is by far the more popular option, with over 1 million students enrolled each year, compared to approx 500,000 at TAFE. But should you dedicate years of your life and thousands of dollars to getting a degree when there are inexpensive, hands-on qualifications you could jump right into? How do you know which option is right for you? To help you decide, we’ve compiled some of the important differences between Uni and TAFE…
Considering university costs so much, you would expect there to be a huge gap in earnings between those who choose TAFE and those who go to uni. But it isn’t always the case. Vocational training actually leads to a higher starting salary than a uni degree. On average, VET/TAFE graduates enjoy a starting salary of $56,000 – that’s almost $2,000 higher than the average starting salary of a university graduate. Electricians, for example, can start out on $62,000 once fully qualified – that’s more than accountants, teachers and dentists. Six months after completing a Certificate IV, those who find full-time employment earn an average of $63,000, although the average wage of Certificate III ($48,400) and Certificate II graduates ($44,200) is much lower. Compare this with a median starting wage of $52,450 for under-25 graduates with bachelor’s degrees. Of course, climbing a career ladder may be easier with a degree, which means long-term earnings could be substantially higher if you’re ready to put in the hard yards.
While university graduates tend to have a higher average salary over time, suggesting their earning power starts to outstrip the TAFE graduates as their career progresses, the early advantage of TAFE graduates in the form of higher starting salaries puts them in a better position to reach key financial milestones such as home ownership at an early age. Even though their average income is less overall, the level of home ownership among tradies is only slightly lower than professionals. According to research conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, 36% of tradespeople had high rates of homeownership, compared with 39% for professionals. It’s an interesting statistic considering the difference in cost between a degree and a trade.
Time and money
The relatively small difference in starting salary and home ownership rates raises the question: is a university education worth the money? Undergraduate degrees can often cost $30,000 or more, while TAFE is far cheaper, with many courses also subsidised by government schemes and incentives. Most uni students take advantage of HECS debts, which means you won’t have to pay a cent for your degree until you are earning full-time amount of money, as in, graduated with a full time job. This is a big reason why uni is more popular, with many students considering paying off the debt as a problem for their future selves.
On top of the financial cost, the investment of time in a university course can be expensive, with the average undergraduate degree taking three years full-time to complete. TAFE appears to trump university when it comes to the length of time that you’re actually studying – most VET courses range in duration from six months to two years – which means you’ll be able to kickstart your career sooner. It’s worth noting that TAFE sneaks a few extra months onto its educational year, though. TAFE runs from February through to December, whereas uni students are only in class from March to November.
This Daily Telegraph article reports that a record number of people who already have postgraduate university qualifications are now ‘flooding’ VET/TAFE courses because their degrees didn’t give them enough practical skills to find employment. In fact, two-thirds of students surveyed in the 2015 Future Leaders Index said they believe their degree didn’t adequately prepare them to find a job in their field. No wonder it’s a common theme that universities don’t equip students with enough practical skills to succeed in their industries. It appears universities are also having trouble keeping up with the radical pace of change in many industries, with many graduates learning info that is outdated before they’ve even used it. VET and TAFE courses are considered much more dynamic and responsive to industry changes and trends, meaning students graduate more job-ready.
TAFE and private vocational training colleges have better job prospects than university graduates, with 78% of VET graduates finding employment after training. The TAFE sector currently provides training courses for 9 out of 10 of the occupations predicted to have the strongest jobs growth over the next five years, included accountants and aged and disability carers. It’s a different story for uni students, whose job prospects have been steadily declining over the past few years. Research shows that between 2008 and 2014, the number of university graduates who secured full-time work dropped from 56.4 percent to 41.7 percent. However, while things might be tougher for uni students at the beginning, once they’ve secured a full time job, long term employment prospects are typically as good as TAFE graduates.
So, which is better overall, uni or TAFE? Sorry, kids, you’ll have to figure that one out yourselves. If you’ve learnt anything from this comparison, it should be that there are pros and cons to both options. The simple answer is, make the choice that best suits you. Think of it like choosing between an expensive fashion store and a cheaper one with funky clothes. At the end of the day, clothes bought from either store, when put together in the right way, can create a kick-ass outfit. Choose the clothes that best suit you.