All about VET: Your questions, answered

Vocational Education and Training (VET) focuses on equipping grads with the practical skills needed to join the workforce. Image: Shutterstock

Thinking about doing the vocational education and training (VET) thing after high school? If you’re a student with loads of questions, welcome to the club

Enrolling in a three-year bachelor’s degree isn’t the only way to land an awesome career in STEM! Kickstarting your career with a STEM apprenticeship or traineeship can lead to some pretty cool next-gen opportunities and there are loads of alternative pathways that equip grads with the immediate skills needed to score a job.

But what’s involved in applying for a non-uni pathway? And what do employers really think about TAFE/trade school credentials? Here, we attempt to answer some of your most-sent DMs. 

What is VET?

VET stands for Vocational Education and Training. Its aim is to partner with industries and the government to equip people with workplace skills and technical knowledge to help them start out in their dream career  – or advance in it. 

What are the benefits of VET?

Alternative pathways are an awesome way to gain valuable skills – and fast. They’re also a more cost-effective way to score a qualification if you’re keen to fast-track your career or get into the workforce ASAP.

Grads get loads of hands-on experience too, which gives them and their future employers lots of confidence in their abilities.

“Bachelor degrees can often cost over $30,000, while TAFE and VET courses are usually much cheaper, especially as the fees for government-subsidised students are often heavily reduced,” explains 

Where can I study a VET course?

TAFE, as well as privately operated training providers or colleges! Just like universities, most host open days, where you can check out different courses and campuses. Jump on their mailing lists and socials so you don’t miss key dates.

Looking for your local? In Australia all states have TAFEs! Charles Darwin University provides most VET courses in the NT and in the ACT, the Canberra Institute of Technology is your go-to. Based in NZ? Look into Polytechnics.

What types of VET courses are out there?

Literally, loads. If health is your thing for example, pathways into healthcare careers include:

  • Certificate IV in Ageing Support Certificate IV in Fitness
  • Certificate III in Health Administration
  • Certificate IV in Leisure and Health
  • Certificate IV in Medical Practice Assisting
  • Diploma of Mental Health
  • Diploma of Nursing
  • Diploma of Practice Management
  • Diploma of Work Health and Safety
  • Statement of Attainment in Medical Records Coding

And if you’re into engineering? As the most popular of all VET courses – with more than two thirds of the VET qualified STEM workforce having studied either a diploma or certificate in engineering –  course options include: 

  • Advanced Diploma of Engineering (Mechanical)
  • Certificate II in Aeroskills
  • Certificate III in Engineering – Fabrication Trade
  • Certificate III in Engineering – Mechanical Trade
  • Certificate II in Engineering – Production Technology
  • Certificate IV in Maritime Operations
  • Diploma of Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Engineering
  • Diploma of Electronics and Communications Engineering
  • Diploma of Engineering – Advanced Trade
  • Diploma of Engineering – Technical
  • Undergraduate Certificate in Renewable Energy Engineering

Loads more ideas here.

What kinds of STEM jobs can I get?

Almost all of them! Think nursing, machine learning, software, IT management, network security, health, agriculture and even engineering. 

When it comes to finding a job with your qualification there are loads of options, especially in STEM. You could become a:

  • Health support worker
  • Machinery operator or driver
  • IT specialist
  • Mechanic
  • Electrician
  • Carpenter and joiner
  • Plumber
  • Construction manager
  • Crop farmer
  • Dental assistant
  • Enrolled nurse
  • ICT support technician
  • Medical technician
  • Software and applications programmer

And among those with the largest employment growth? ICT project managers, program developers, software engineers, ICT customer support officers and web developers.

Are VET graduates employable?

Very! According to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, VET Student Outcomes 2018, 79.8% of VET graduates who undertook their training as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship were employed after training.

Oh and get this – only 32% of the STEM qualified workforce went to university. The rest are VET trained.

How long do VET courses take?

VET courses are notoriously dynamic and fast-paced, and according to VET NSW take less time to complete than basic Bachelor degree (three years). 

According to their website: “Certificates I–IV range from six months to two years. Diploma courses typically take one or two years. Advanced diplomas usually take between 18 months to two years, a graduate certificate typically takes six months to one year and a graduate diploma usually takes between one and two years.”

Wanting to train in a shorter amount of time? VET could be the right choice for you!

Is VET a better option than university?

There are pros and cons for both, and it really depends on your personal circumstances what type of STEM career you’re after!

VET courses will broaden your skills in a specialised area and give you the practical experience you’ll need for the workplace – making you super employable.

If earning potential is important however, keep in mind that those with a PhD are more likely to earn in the top income bracket compared with Bachelor and VET graduates.

You could always start with a VET course then move onto university for further study when the time is right for you. 

What kinds of STEM professionals have studied VET? 

So many! We’ve profiled loads of STEM professionals who have gone down the alternative pathway route. To name just a few:

Head here for the full list. 

Uni not for you? Head to our vocational education and training hub for all the info you need to kickstart a STEM career without a degree.


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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