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The Pros and Cons of Vocational Education
Have you considered pursuing Vocational Education Training after high school?
During your last years of high school, it’s likely you’ll be confronted with two choices in regards to further education: vocational education and higher education. While higher education, also known as tertiary education, is the more common path to go down, vocational education and training is a good alternative if you find that academia isn’t your strong suit.
For young people, it can be incredibly tough to figure out which decision is best, so here’s a quick guide to the Australian tertiary education system.
What is the difference between vocational education and higher education?
Vocational Education and Training
Vocational Education and Training, or the VET system, is designed to be practical, providing their students with the tools to learn workplace skills relevant to trades, crafts, and life skills. You can get a vocational diploma in these areas:
And many more!
Entry requirements depend on the course you’re interested in. Generally speaking, VET students need to complete Year 10, 11 or 12, and at times, you’ll need to have some work experience or a portfolio if you’d like to get into design or fine arts.
Higher education is developed more to help students learn theory-based knowledge. University students are usually graded through assessments such as essays and reports and exams, while VET students will be assessed through a competency-based assessment. Competency-based assessments test how well you perform at a specific task. By the end of the assessment, you will be deemed either competent or not competent. Unlike university assessments, it’s not a graded qualification.
Keep in mind that, even if you decide to go down the path of vocational education, it doesn’t mean you can’t go into higher education later on. Some VET qualifications can even be used as credit for certain higher education courses, so don’t think just because you’ve chosen vocational training doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later!
The benefits of vocational education
Some people believe that those who choose vocational training will mean that you’re less likely to find a high-paying job. This is incorrect. For lower ATAR students, vocational training is a way to find a job that can offer an income just as high as any university graduate position – sometimes ever higher. However, this obviously depends on which area you decide to go in. In fact, the labour market shows that there is a high demand for technicians and people in the trade, since most high school graduates go towards higher education institutions. In contrast, the number of people who go into vocational training has remained steady for the past twenty years.
The courses in vocational training are generally shorter than university courses. Typically, associate degrees take about two years full-time. It can even take as little as a year to complete. Because of this, vocational students spend less money on their education than university students, who spend four years on a bachelor’s degree on average.
These courses also provide you with onsite training, which will give you the experience employers crave. A common complaint among university graduates is that they can’t find jobs because they don’t have any experience yet. With vocational training, you don’t have to worry about that! In fact, you can get started right away as soon as you get your job. No on-the-job training required. Because of this, students who complete a vocational course have a higher employability rate compared to university graduates.
The disadvantages of vocational education
However, just like any choice, there are going to be downsides. Vocational education is usually very limiting. The skills you’ll learn are very particular to that one field. Obviously, if you know for certain that this is the job you’d like to do, that’s no problem. But for those who are still thinking about what they’d like to do, or wanting to keep their options open, it might prove a challenge.
While vocational courses are generally cheaper than university courses as we just mentioned, there are a lot of add-on costs. You might need to pay for tools, uniforms, and other various items out of your own pocket.
Though it is possible to obtain a high-paying position with vocational education, many people find themselves in a lower-paying role compared to those with a university education. Vocational education is considered to be less ‘prestigious’ than a university degree, however, this is a problematic cultural perception. Facts paint a picture of vocational education as an imperative part of upskilling Australians providing better employment outcomes.
Making the best choice for your future
Both vocational education and tertiary education have their advantages and disadvantages. If you’re a prospective student about to leave secondary school, and you’re tossing up options for your future, it’s a good idea to consider each point individually.
Outline your goals and compare the pros and cons of VET against them so you can decide if it’s the best option for you.
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