Do I have to go to university to have a career in STEM?

Do you know that only 32% of the STEM qualified workforce went to university?

If you thought university was the only option for getting started in your dream STEM career, it’s time to think again.

If 68% of STEM workers never actually went to university, then what did they study? Where are they working? And does going to uni actually give you a better chance of having a successful career in STEM? Let’s break it down.


What did they study?

When we’re talking about qualifications outside of university, we’re talking about VET study. This is vocational education and training and involves studying at either TAFE or a private college.

Engineering is the most popular choice of all VET study, with two thirds of the VET qualified STEM workforce having chosen to study either a diploma or certificate in engineering. Maths is the least popular, with 95% of student opting to go to university instead of TAFE or a private college.



Should you go to university?


So aside from engineering and mathematics, what else could you study? In a recent review of the different TAFE and private college courses offered, 30 of the 57 courses could be considered STEM-related. What type of courses are we talking about? While there’s not time to list them all, the most popular categories of courses are in:

– The natural and physical sciences

– Information technology

– Engineering and related technologies

– Architecture and building

– Agriculture, environmental and related studies

– Health


Where are they working?

When it comes to finding a job with your VET qualification there are loads of options. Here is a simple list of some (but not all) of the STEM jobs your VET course could qualify you for. You could become…

– A technician or tradie

– A community and personal service worker

– A health support worker

– A clerical and administrative manager

– A sales assistant or manager

– A machinery operator or driver

– An IT specialist


Will VET study or university give you a better chance at finding a job?

Well, there’s no black and white answer to this one. On one side data shows that the higher your level of study, the more you will earn. For example in every STEM field, those with a PhD are more likely to earn in the top income bracket compared with bachelor and VET graduates. But, on the other hand when it comes to finding employment recent research highlights that 77% of VET study graduates already have work when they graduate.

It’s also important to know that both options are available to you at all points in your career. So, if you feel like uni isn’t for you right now, maybe a certificate three or four could be a great place to start.

– Jess Pollard

artificial intelligence
Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.


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