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Where To After School? The Difference Between Tafe And Uni

By Tom

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.)


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 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.


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.

Good luck!

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