Vocational Trade School or University – Which Is for You?

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Many people around the world are engaged in vocational education and training as well as university level courses. However, when enrolling into a training program it is important to consider which medium of higher education is right for you. There are many differences between university and vocational education and training. Below these differences are outlined for your convenience.


  • Involves degrees, honours, masters and doctorate level courses and some universities offer associates degrees as a bridge between vocational education and university courses
  • Based on theoretical learning
  • Generally gives students access to professions that require formal qualifications (teachers, doctors, psychologists, lawyers)
  • Usually between three and 6 years, depending on course structure
  • Consists of lectures, labs and tutorials
  • Lectures generally are over 100 students, tutorials refined to about 30 students
  • You must have completed your high school diploma or as a mature aged student pass some other form of test
  • Generally students attend full-time but there is the option to study-part time or via correspondence
  • University prompts students to analyse and solve particular problems within their field of study to show understanding
  • Assignments and exams are graded usually on a scale of pass, credit, distinction and high distinction
  • University degrees can lead to honours courses and master’s degrees
  • Classes are specifically set to certain days and hours and it is your responsibility to turn up, no one will force you to be there
  • You must take initiative to study extra hours and do your homework
  • Less structured learning environment

Vocational Trade School (VET Courses, Registered Training Organisations)

  • Involves Certificate I, II, III, IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma training courses
  • More practical based learning
  • Professions like electricians, hair dressers, personal trainers, beauty therapists, chefs
  • Vocational education courses can run from 6 months up to 24 months or perhaps longer depending on the qualification level
  • Apprenticeships and trainee-ships are available
  • There is often no pre-requisite for entry-level qualifications, just the necessary English skills
  • Vocational education is graded on a competent or not competent scale (students are not segregated into abilities)
  • Many contact hours, usually going every week day
  • Smaller class sizes and more contact with teachers
  • The skills taught in vocational education and training courses are directly transferable to the workplace and improve employability
  • Lots of structure within the learning environment

There are many pathways between the two and it is important to recognise what career path you are after to make the right decision.

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