Author: Cara Jenkin
Many students face a choice when they finish school and are contemplating further study – go to university and get a degree, or pursue a qualification through vocational education and training.
However, there is no need to choose at all.
Contrary to the myth that you can’t go to university if you pursue a trade or vocational education, universities across Australia recognise vocational education qualifications obtained through a private training provider or TAFE as one of their entry requirements.
In fact, taking the vocational education path can leave students much better off in their careers by providing them with the practical skills to be job-ready and to hit the ground running when they finish their degree and get their first graduate role.
It also can open up opportunities to work in their industry and earn a wage while they are studying their higher qualifications. For example, a person who has obtained a Certificate III in Individual Support can work as a carer in the aged care industry while studying their Bachelor of Nursing qualification.
This means that it is not just a good choice for those who may not have obtained the ATAR that they needed to get into a degree when they were at school, but those who did get the ATAR and want to broaden their skills and knowledge to be the best they can be in their careers, right from the start.
It’s a move that is catching on – research shows 13 per cent of people who started a bachelor degree in 2019 did so via the vocational education pathway, up from 11.8 per cent in 2011.
Case Study – Shaona Imaru – 2019 Vocational Student of the Year.
How does the VET pathway to university work?
Whether it is a certificate III, certificate IV, diploma or advanced diploma that you study, it may provide entry into a bachelor degree course. Sometimes a university will accept a vocational qualification as part-credit for some subjects towards obtaining the bachelor degree, reducing the length of time it takes to study the degree.
The qualification obtained needs to be in the field of study. For example, a mechanical apprenticeship could not be used towards enrolling in a marketing bachelor degree, but studying an early childhood education and care diploma can be used towards enrolling in an early childhood education bachelor degree.
Some universities and training providers already have agreements in place, meaning that when a student completes a vocational education qualification at a certain training provider, students are guaranteed a place in the associated bachelor degree at university, and do not have to apply for it.
Other pathways in place may recognise a student’s ability. For example, at the University of Sydney, applicants with an average pass result from their vocational qualification can apply to study an associated bachelor degree with an ATAR up to 75, those with an average credit result can apply for a relevant course with an ATAR up to 81, and those with an average distinction result can apply to study a course which accepts an ATAR up to 90.
Can studying vocational subjects in Year 11 or 12 prevent me from applying for university?
Completing a certificate III qualification while still at school can count towards an ATAR, along with four other Year 12 subjects studied.
It does not have to be completed during Year 12, and it could be completed in Year 11. It does not need to directly relate to the bachelor degree you want to study, but it does help.
For example, a Certificate III in Business would provide a good practical grounding to work in any white-collar career, or a Certificate III in Community Services would be a good choice for students interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, aged care, disability care, youth work, social work and other community services sectors.
Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast rule for all vocational education and training qualifications to lead to entry into a university degree, so always check with your universities about their course entry requirements.