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  • Writer's pictureEducation and Visa Agency

HELP! Which level of study is best for me? VET vs. HE (Vocational vs. Higher Education)

There are several different types of courses that you can study in Australia.

We have everything from 2-day English language courses all the way through to 4 year doctoral studies. But with so many courses to choose from, how do you find out which is the best option for you?

Well, we’ll start with a short summary of the different types:


These courses usually go from a few days to a few weeks, sometimes a few months. They don’t usually represent anything on or only represent the lower end of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) but are great if you need to sharpen up your skills, don’t have much time or you need to fill a gap between 2 different courses.

* Remember that as a requirement of your student visa, you must not be out of studies for

more than 2 consecutive months.

VET Courses

VET stands for Vocational Education and Training. VET is the more practical type of education designed by industry experts and usually sets you up to hit the ground running in your career.

These types of courses provide workplace skills, technical knowledge and qualifications for specific jobs and careers. Colleges, Schools, institutes and Government funded TAFEs are usually the institutions which offer VET courses.

VET courses are typically Certificates I-IV, Diplomas, and Advanced Diplomas.

They generally equip you for specific trades and careers that do not require a bachelor degree for entry. These types of jobs include; hairdressing, plastering, bricklaying, administration, travel and tourism, marketing, carpentry and plumbing.

VET courses can sometimes have a work placement part of the course. This means that you

will be in work (oftentimes paid work) whilst you learn. The eligible work that you do as part of an eligible qualification will not count towards your 40 hours per fortnight limit of working hours on a student visa.

Also, if your occupation is on the Skilled Occupation List and you study an eligible course for

2 years or more, you may be eligible for an 18 month Temporary Graduate 485 visa with full time working rights when you graduate.

Note that if you have a partner attached to your student visa, they may only work 40 hours per fortnight during term time and cannot work before you have started your course.

✅ BEST FOR: those looking for a fast, cost-effective pathway to their chosen career, whilst gaining first-hand practical experience with up-to-date industry standards.

HE Courses

HE, or Higher Education is a more academic pathway. HE is generally studied at Universities and covers courses ranging from Graduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas, Bachelor Degrees, Masters Degrees (Coursework and research) and Doctoral Degrees. They are generally considered to be more prestigious than VET studies, however, they can be quite costly, are often slower to keep up with industry and can have harder entry requirements.

HE courses are great for getting world renowned education, expert level tutoring and more facilities and resources for students.

Although most HE courses are more expensive than VET courses, this can get flipped around when you apply for a Higher Degree by Research (HDR). These include master’s by research, master of philosophy and PhD courses. If you are a highly competitive applicant, you may find that not only are your tuition fees covered, but you may also get a stipend of up to $35,000 per year tax free to spend on living whilst you study.

If you study anything at Bachelor’s level or above for at least 2 years you may also be eligible for the Temporary Graduate Visa - Post Study stream, which can provide you with an extra 2 years in Australia with full time work rights.

When studying a master degree - your partner can work without restrictions on hours if they are an additional applicant on your visa.

If you are studying a HDR you can also work without restrictions on hours, and your partner can also work without restrictions on hours if they are an additional applicant on your visa.

BEST FOR: those looking to learn a subject to a higher level on the AQF, those who need an academic qualification for a job role, those looking to gain a qualification by research, and

those who would like to be eligible for a 485 visa.

So, which is best?

Depending on the career you’re going for, it’s important to check what will allow you to get entry. For example, if you want to become a Doctor, it’s important that you undertake a Bachelor of Medicine. A simple Diploma in Biology would not get you there.

Alternatively, if you would like to become a photographer, more often than not, your career will depend on your technical skill rather than your qualification. In this sense, perhaps a more practical and quicker to complete VET course may be more appropriate for you.

Just as importantly, you must also check the Skilled Occupation List if you wish to become sponsored in Australia for that job. Some jobs, such as marketing for example, don’t require you to have a bachelor’s degree to get a job. However if you wish to become sponsored in marketing, you would need to have a bachelor’s degree or several years full time experience in order to be considered for entry under a skilled visa for that role.

Check out our blog about the Skilled Occupation List and Skilled Visas here.

As with all courses, if you have already worked in the field or have studied a similar course previously, you may be able to obtain credit for your qualifications, or even an RPL certificate which will register with Australian authorities, sponsors and employers that you have the skills you need to be eligible for a job in that particular role. Applying for full or partial credit based on previous studies will allow you to skip those units of the course, meaning you get your qualification quicker and for a lower cost. Huzzah!

Check out our blog about Recognition of Prior Learning here

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