What to consider

With so many courses available, you have many options when deciding what to study and where to study. Look closely at the courses offered by each education provider, because different providers might offer a different type of specialisation or stream for similar courses.

It's important to make sure that you are clear about what is being offered to you by each provider, to ensure you are enrolling in the course that is right for you. The following 'tips' on this page are designed to assist you with making the decision on further study after Year 12.

Types of qualifications?

Vocational education and training (VET) prepares students for specific trades, crafts and careers at various levels by delivering education and training that focuses on developing specific skills and knowledge required for specific industries. VET courses provide many options from short courses, introductory and advanced certificates to get you into certain industries, diplomas that demonstrate high levels of technical knowledge and graduate certificates for particular occupations.

VET qualifications include certificates I – IV, diplomas, advanced diplomas, graduate certificates and graduate diplomas.

Undergraduate study usually refers to a degree where a student is studying their first degree. Bachelor degrees are the most common qualification undertaken at higher education provider and typically take 3 years full-time study to complete. They introduce students to general fields of study rather than teaching specific skills needed for specific jobs. A bachelor degree provides the principles and concepts relating to a field of study and general body of knowledge, this allows flexibility in your chosen field to build a career path without pinning it down to a specific occupation.

Undergraduate degrees are most commonly studied at university, although private higher education providers and TAFEs also deliver them.

Postgraduate study refers to the range of courses and research that are available to students who have already completed their first degree.
When you undertake postgraduate study, you can be awarded a graduate certificate, graduate diploma, master degree or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD or doctorate). There are two main types of postgraduate study – research and coursework:

  • Research: this means you undertake supervised research over a substantial period of time (two or more years), which leads to a thesis (a written theory) or some major work.
  • Coursework: you can also do postgraduate study through coursework. This means you attend lectures and classes. You can gain a Postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma or master degree through coursework, and this can take between six months and three years, depending on the type of study.

For more information about qualifications in Australia, you can refer to the Australian Qualifications Framework.

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Providers and courses

There are many education providers (universities, private higher education providers, TAFEs and VET providers) around Australia that offer courses or accredited qualifications. This website focuses on providers that are specifically approved by the Australian Government to offer HELP loans (including VET Student Loans - and VET FEE-HELP, which closed 31 December 2016) to eligible students.
As many providers offer the same/similar qualifications, it's important that you compare several providers that offer the same type of qualification you are interested in, and consider the following information, before making the decision to enrol.

You will also need to consider if you have the necessary foundation knowledge or prerequisites required to do the course. One thing to consider is whether the course will give you the skills and knowledge that you need for your chosen profession/future study.

Don't forget to check the 'Compare courses and providers' page for tips on searching for higher education courses using the QILT website, and for searching for VET courses using the MySkills website.

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The Australian Qualifications Framework

The Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) underpins the national system of qualifications in Australia and provides an indication of the volume of learning (i.e. timeframe) normally required to complete each qualification, noting that online or appropriately accelerated study may be completed earlier than indicated. Some VET providers may also advertise that their courses can be completed in nominated hours/weeks.

The AQF indicates the volume of learning for relevant qualifications as listed below:

Name Volume of Learning
Certificate IV 0.5 - 2 years
Diploma 1 - 2 years
Advanced Diploma 1.5 - 2 years
Bachelor Degree 3 - 4 years
Bachelor Honours Degree 1 year
Graduate Certificate 0.5 - 1 year
Graduate Diploma 1 - 2 years
Masters 1.5 - 2 years
Doctoral Degree 3 - 4 years

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Compare prices

  • Consider the price of the qualification

    The same qualification can be priced differently by different providers. If you are comparing providers, and there are differences in the price, you should ask why. If the qualification is cheaper than others, check if it is still a recognised qualification by the relevant industry or peak body/organisation that represents that occupation (for example, accounting/engineering, nursing etc).

    If the qualification is more expensive, ask whether you will receive additional training/learning/support/mentoring as part of your qualification.

  • Check if you will have to pay any incidental fees.

    The price listed for a qualification is for the tuition only, but some subjects/courses will often involve additional costs for textbooks and/or specialist equipment. These fees cannot be deferred/paid with a HELP loan (including VET Student Loans).

  • Check if there are additional items/specialist equipment that you will have to buy.

    For example, are there textbooks, laptops/specialist computer programs that you will have to purchase? Many science courses will require you to purchase protective equipment (i.e. lab coat, glasses, gloves).

  • Is there a uniform that you will have to purchase?

    For example, some courses that have external placements will require you to wear a uniform that identifies your education institution (i.e. nursing/aged care facility/hospitality placements).

  • What are the other associated costs with external placements?

    For example, how to pay for travel, accommodation and meals are considerations to take into account when attending residential schools, internships or work or professional placements.

    Also check if you will require any immunisations, criminal record clearances, or attainment of a first aid/senior first aid certificate as part of your course.

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What are your payment options?

It's a good idea to consider how you will pay for your qualification.

If you are eligible, you may be able to access a HELP loan (or a VET Student Loan) to pay for your tuition. However, if you are not eligible and you are required to pay your fees upfront, you could talk to your provider about organising a payment plan, or paying in instalments. You may also wish to discuss with your provider about whether you would be eligible for any in-house scholarships or other financial assistance they may offer.

Note: You will also need to consider how you will pay for any incidental fees required, as you will not be able to use a HELP loan (or a VET Student Loan) for these incidental fees.

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How will the qualification be delivered?

Most qualifications will be offered either on campus or online. You may find one mode more suitable than the other, depending upon your family/work commitments. Some things to consider are:

  • If the qualification is offered on campus, consider whether you have the transport and time to attend lectures/tutorials.
  • If the qualification is offered online, consider whether you have the time and self-discipline to commit to this mode of study.
  • If you do pursue online study, be sure that you have the correct IT equipment to undertake the study – i.e. access to a computer on a regular basis at the allocated time of your lecture/discussion, and the correct speed and data internet connection required for the website (institutions will specify the minimum connection details required).
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What will your job prospects be?

You should investigate what your job prospects could be once you’ve completed your qualification. Some questions you could ask your provider include:

  • Ask your provider if they offer job placements/internships as part of the qualification. Any job placements/internship opportunities offered as part of a qualification will be a valuable experience as it will offer you 'real-life' experience in your intended profession.
  • Ask what the provider's graduate outcomes are like. For example, ask how many graduates they have produced over the last couple of years, and if those graduates are now employed.
  • You could also contact previous graduates (check out industry/alumni networks) to see what they thought of the qualification, or potential employers in that field for advice on whether they value that qualification or can suggest a better alternate one.
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