University compared to TAFE: Which is better?

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It’s a common question many people starting a new career ask themselves: should I go university to do a degree, or enrol in TAFE for vocational training?

Vocational training is often perceived as a lesser alternative to university, relegated to those who didn’t receive high enough marks to get in.

However, according to a new report by the Skilling Australia Foundation (SAF), VET training in Australia offers students comparatively huge advantages over university – and not just for people with low marks.

So how do you know which one is right for you? Here’s some of the important differences between Uni and VET/TAFE courses:


According to some experts, universities don’t equip students with enough practical skills to succeed in their industries. 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.

And because of that, a 2014 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.

The blistering pace of change in many industries also means many people graduate with university degrees that are outdated before they’ve even used them. But according to the SAF report, VET courses are much more dynamic and respond quickly to industry changes and trends, meaning students graduate much more job-ready.

Employment outcomes

Research conducted on behalf of SAF has found that graduates of TAFE and private vocational training colleges have better job prospects than university graduates, with 78% of VET graduates finding employment after training.

But for university students, 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.

Meanwhile, the SAF report says the VET 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 aged and disability carers and accountants.


According to SAF, people who’ve completed vocational training have higher starting salaries than their university counterparts.

In fact, 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.

Time and money

So considering the poor job prospects many university graduates face, it raises the question: is a university education worth the money? Undergraduate degrees can often cost $30,000 or more – and the cost just continues to go up.

On the other hand, VET/TAFE is far more accessible and cost-effective, with many courses also subsidised by government schemes and incentives – which means you pay less.

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. Meanwhile, most VET courses range in duration from six months to two years – which means you’ll be able to kickstart your career sooner.

Want more information about the dynamic VET courses TrainSmart Australia offers? Our career advisors can guide you on the best course option for your goals and needs.

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