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VET graduates vs. University graduates: who's better off?

By Ben Madden

If you’re preparing for what you’re going to do when you finish school, then you might find yourself faced with a difficult decision. Do you want to go down the path of VET (vocational education training), or do you want to undertake a university course? 

There are positives and negatives towards both approaches, but you might not be aware of the many benefits that a vocational education can present. 

Here are some reasons why you should be considering undertaking vocational training. 

What is vocational education?  

Vocational education is practical training with the specific goal of preparing you for a particular career/s. While university degrees might be more knowledge/theory based, vocational education equips you with the skills to complete a task/s competently and confidently. 

Why do we need vocational education?

Vocational education provides an alternate pathway for those who find themselves desiring different skills to what a university course can provide. Vocational education is required for a whole range of fast-growing industries, such as trades, animal care, information technology. Some of the ways that vocational and university education differ include: 

  • Type of education provided – Vocational education is more practical, whereas university education is more theory/knowledge-based. Depending on what you’re looking for when you complete a post-secondary qualification, one will suit you more than the other.

  • Length of the course – Vocational courses tend to range from 6-24 months, while university degrees often go for 36-48 months. If you’re looking to enter the workforce sooner or want to spend more time pursuing an area of interest, one will be more appealing versus the other.

  • Skills taught – Vocational education focuses on a specific area/s that directly correlate to the career/s being pursued. By comparison, university education teaches more generalised skills that can be applied to a range of careers.

What are the benefits of vocational education?

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There are many benefits to engaging in and completing vocational education, and these benefits are often not found in the university sector. Some of the biggest benefits include:

  • Personal development and growth – Vocational education brings together different groups of people and exposes you to lots of people you might not otherwise have met. It’s a great way to experience personal growth, as well as professional growth.

  • Different learning environments - Don’t fancy studying in the classroom? Learn on the job, or in other environments that suit you best.

  • Access to career servicesThe best vocational education providers will facilitate employment opportunities, as well as practical learning scenarios, including apprenticeships and internships. 

The key differences between a VET graduate and university graduate  

Vocational education and university courses provide different experiences to those looking for further education. Some of the key differences include:

  • Their job-readiness – Vocational education gets you job-ready. Once you finish a vocational qualification, you’ll be prepared to undertake the work you’ve been training for right away. In contrast, university education might require more training or education, or you might have to learn on the job. 

  • Their ability to achieve career progression – A vocational program will allow you to take the steps required to chase your dream career in a shorter timeframe, often just months. However, if you complete a university degree, you might spend years studying, only to find yourself needing to complete extra study to be ready to work in your chosen field.

  • Their skillset – Vocational courses are designed to teach the skills you need to be job-ready. However, university courses may not cover everything employers are looking for. You may find yourself struggling to find employment after completing a university degree, depending on what area of study you’ve completed.

Salary Expectations 

Data from Skilling Australia has found that the median full-time income for a VET graduate is $56,000, while those who have completed a bachelor’s degree have a median income of $54,000. You can’t go wrong with either pathway if you’re looking to make a good income. 

Employment Opportunities 

The aforementioned data from Skilling Australia also found that 78% of vocational education graduates find employment soon after completing their education. This compares favourably with the employment rate for those who complete a bachelor’s degree, with 68% of bachelor’s degree graduates finding employment soon after completing their studies. 

Course Completion Rates

Data from the Australian government found that 41.1% of enrolled students studying with non-university education providers completed their qualification/s over a 4-year period from 2016-2019. In comparison, 43% of enrolled university students completed their qualifications over the same period (with some students in both groups enrolled beyond the 4-year mark).

Are you better off doing a VET course or university degree?  

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Why should you do a VET course?

There are many reasons why a VET course might suit you best, even if you haven’t previously considered one. Some of the reasons you should think about completing vocational education include:

  • You learn best through practical education – Many people find that they learn most effectively by completing tasks, and receiving feedback based on how they completed those tasks. If that sounds like you, then competency-based education is a great decision.

  • You’re looking to change your career path – Feeling unsatisfied with your current career path? A vocational course allows you to shift to another industry and fast-track your way there.

Why should you do a university degree?

Still unsure about what career you want to pursue, but know your passion lies in a certain industry? University degrees can provide you with the launchpad to explore different career paths, allowing you to make a choice later on. Some of the reasons you should think about a bachelor’s degree include:

  • You want to understand the theory behind your chosen field – Often find yourself asking why and how something is the way it is? University education can provide you with the knowledge you need to understand your chosen field on a deeper level.

  • You’re looking for a long-term payoff – Still a few years off feeling ‘ready’ to enter the workforce? A university qualification allows you to continue educating yourself before you start climbing the career ladder.

Explore your course options with Upskilled

If you’re looking to explore vocational education opportunities, then Upskilled provides a range of nationally recognised qualifications. Browse the range of courses provided here, or alternatively, get in touch with our education consultants on 1300 009 924 to learn more!

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