Q: What’s the difference between vocational and higher education?
Vocational education and higher education are two very different forms of learning. Vocational education focuses on building up your practical skills and ability to perform a specific job with confidence, while higher education develops your theoretical knowledge in a certain field, and gives you the academic tools to perform a job.
The differences between these two forms of education extend to the kinds of qualifications offered, and the kind of career needs they each meet.
You can explore exactly what these learning methods involve below.
What is vocational education?
Vocational education and training (VET) is a practical-based education system. A VET course will help you develop job-ready skills, undertake formal on-the-job training and hone your ability to understand and solve real problems in your industry.
VET is considered one of the best tickets to getting a job in Australia, as many VET courses focus on developing in-demand skills for industries that are crying out for workers. The skills you develop through VET are all about gaining competency in performing certain tasks in a job. The great thing about that is that you don’t need to study a whole lot of theory to understand the ‘why’ behind a job.
You succeed in your VET studies when you can show you know how to perform those tasks with confidence.
Where can you study a VET course?
VET courses are provided by registered training organisations (RTOs), TAFEs and private institutes. The qualifications you can get through VET include:
What is higher education?
Higher education is all about academia and theory. Also known as tertiary education, it’s a lot like the kind of education offered in secondary school, focusing on understanding facts and the ‘why’ behind a topic. Higher education can feel quite hands off, as it requires a lot of the work to be completed by yourself in your own time.
Higher education is an ideal pathway into theoretical careers, like medicine, law, teaching and engineering. This is because the main focus is on giving you the tools to think critically about your area of study. You’ll learn how to perform certain tasks, but you’ll also learn the context, facts and theory of the industry so that you can problem solve and innovate in your future role.
You’ll also have the opportunity to undertake work experience during your higher education studies, although most of the time it’s up to you to source them.
Where can you study a higher education course?
Higher education courses are provided by universities, institutes of technology, academies, and colleges. The qualifications you can obtain through higher education include:
How to decide which method of education is best for you?
Because of how different vocational education and higher education are, the best way to figure out which form of education is best for you is to put together a list of your needs and goals.
To get you started, we’ve put together a basic summary of what would make you suited to each type of learning:
Vocational education is best for you if:
- You want to develop skills that will help you land a job quickly
- You prefer hands-on learning
- You want to undertake formal work experience in your field before graduating
- You want a fast way to upskill in your current career
- You want a fast way to change careers
- You need a nationally recognised qualification
- You need a specific licence to work in your chosen field
- You need a lower-cost course that will make you job-ready
Higher education is best for you if:
- You want to pursue a career theory-based career, like medicine, law, teaching or engineering
- You prefer academic and theoretical study
- You’re interested in the ‘why’, not just the ‘how’
- You need an advanced degree to forge your career, or continue moving forward in your career
- You’re interested in developing transferable skills like communication, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking