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What to do after high school

By Rosa Ritchie

For most of your life you’ve been going to school. If you’re about to finish your final year of school, the start will seem like a very long time ago now. It’s an exciting time, but everyone experiences some mixed emotions about graduation. It means, after all, a pretty huge disruption in your lifestyle. For more than twelve years you have had the routine and structure of attending school, going on holidays, submitting assignments and playing weekend sport.

Of course there are things that may frustrate you about this cycle, but by now you’re a pro at navigating it. It’s time to consider what you’ll do after school and while this prospect is super exciting it’s understandable if you’re a bit daunted by it. Your parents, teachers and friends will all have opinions and ideas about what that could be, but it’s a decision you’ve got to come to on your own. Most jobs and careers require skills and qualifications you haven’t yet acquired in school. Different trades call for different training and even in positions where you don’t necessarily need a qualification or certification of training, you'll need some sort of knowledge or experience.

So, let’s talk about what your different options are after completing high school. Or, check out our full high school leavers guide here, now.

Gap Year

For some people, a year of unskilled work and a healthy dose of travel is just what the doctor ordered. Unskilled work is work that doesn’t require prior learning, or any special skills or qualifications – this means you can hand out your resume with your education and work experience on it and find a job in areas such as hospitality and retail without a university degree or vocation. A gap year is a good way to get some perspective on what your talents, passions and values are. When you have a better idea about these aspects of yourself it’s easier to choose a learning pathway. 

Enter the Workforce

As mentioned above, employment opportunities are loosely separated into different categories of work. ‘Skilled’ work refers to work that requires prior learning or skills – for example a chef in a restaurant is a skilled worker because they have undertaken education and training in food and hospitality. A waiter is an unskilled worker, not because he or she isn’t talented, but because most of the time you don’t need a qualification to be considered for the job. Because skilled workers have particular abilities and knowledge, their time is deemed more valuable than that of an unskilled worker, which means they generally earn a higher income. There’s a lot to consider when entering the workforce, but Upskilled is here to help if you’re looking for further information.

young woman offering coffee

Higher Education

There are several different types of higher education. You might go to learn at a university, TAFE or a Registered Training Organisation. Each of these institutions has something different to offer you. You might have heard the words ‘vocational’ and ‘tertiary’ used to describe education. Tertiary education happens at University, like a Bachelor of Arts for instance. It is usually theoretical knowledge across all sorts of different faculties, designed to teach you skills like reading, comprehending and communicating ideas and information. Vocational education is centred on practical, skills-based learning – you can get vocational qualifications at TAFE or an RTO like Upskilled. The courses are usually shorter in length, cheaper, and offer industry based knowledge that is quite specific. Employers value vocational learning, and some of them even require it, for entry-level jobs in industries such as events managementhospitalityeducationbusinessagriculture and many more. With the job market being very competitive, it’s worth considering what you can do to invest in yourself and your career through further education. 
Worried about fees? There’s a lot of financial assistance available to students in Australia, so don’t let money be a deterrent to further education.

infographic of students are employed or in further study

Earn and Learn

The great thing about an apprenticeship is that you get paid to study, instead of paying to study. Australian Apprenticeships are your best bet if you’re interested in getting a trade. It’s a pathway to a nationally recognised qualification, meaning it can take you all sorts of places. There aren’t prerequisites needed to start an apprenticeship, meaning your marks at school aren’t needed to start learning a trade. 

young people working as apprentices in construction industry

Decision Making

This has been a lot to take in, we know. But if you’re completing high school you’re already on the right track – in 2009 the Australian Bureau of Statistics found people aged 20-64 years who had personal gross weekly income in the highest quintile in Australia were far more likely to have attained Year 12 than those who had not. It may not seem like it in the midst of stressful assignments and exams, but you’re already well on the way to finding the pathway best suited for you. Pat yourself on the back for all the years of school work you’ve already knocked over. In terms of the future, think about what you enjoyed in school and what your favourite things to do are. That will help you figure out how to earn money doing something you love, and what skills or qualifications you might need to attain to step closer to those dreams.


Don’t worry, you’re not on your own in this! We’ve discussed a lot in this article about the pros and cons of gap years, higher education and entering the workforce, but for a more depth guide to finishing school and what to do after get our full school leavers guide now! 

In the meantime, put your head down at school so you can go out on top.

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