What you need to know about choosing a TAFE course

Finishing school? If you want to get job-ready or break into an industry, TAFE could be a great next step.

Whether you want to work in building and construction, beauty therapy, business and management, children’s services, digital media or nursing, most TAFEs will have a course to suit your preferred study level and equip you with the skills you need.

What is TAFE?

Depending on what kind of career you want, a TAFE (Technical and Further Education) course may be the right pathway for you. While there are different kinds of TAFE courses, including certificates and postgraduate qualifications, TAFE courses tend to focus on practical skills and vocational training—what you need to know for a job.

“TAFE courses train students for semi-skilled, skilled, trade and paraprofessional careers for just about every industry,” says Mish Eastman, acting deputy vice chancellor at Swinburne University of Technology.

You rarely need an ATAR to get a place at TAFE and gaining a TAFE qualification can often be faster and cheaper than studying at university.

What are the entry requirements for TAFE?

Some foundational TAFE courses don’t have any entry requirements, Eastman says. But for certificate and diploma courses, you’ll usually have to finish year 10, 11 or 12, she says.

TAFE offers many career pathways, and you often have the opportunity to move from certificates and diplomas to degrees, between courses or from the workforce into study. 

How long does a TAFE semester go for?

The year for many TAFEs is longer than university, running from February to December rather than March to November. 

Many Certificate IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses use university semesters, but shorter courses such as Certificates I, II and III, tend to use a different system. “At Swinburne, these shorter courses generally have between three and four intakes per year,” Eastman says. 

What can I do in a TAFE course?

When it comes to what you’ll learn and how, TAFE offers plenty of options, Eastman says.

  • Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS): “This allows you to take on skills-based learning while completing your VCE or VCAL,” she says.
  • Pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships: “Pre-apprenticeships give you a taste of a particular industry and offer a pathway into an apprenticeship,” Eastman says. “Apprenticeships combine paid work with nationally recognised training, so you can earn while you learn.” 
  • Basic training and skills development in a specific industry: “Certificate I and II courses aim to get you started in the workplace or provide the specific skills your employer wants,” Eastman says. “Many Certificate I and II courses are also pre-apprenticeships.”
  • Entry into trades or traineeships: “Certificate III and IV courses provide entry into various trades, traineeships or other jobs that require skills and knowledge beyond a basic level,” Eastman says. “Many Certificate III courses are also apprenticeships.”
  • Progression to a bachelor degree: “Diplomas and advanced diplomas can help you build the practicals skills and technical expertise that make you employable,” Eastman says. “They may also provide opportunities to progress to a bachelor degree.”

How much does TAFE cost?

Fees depend on the qualification level, number of contact hours, and whether you are eligible for a government-subsidised place. 

Some states (such as Victoria) have schemes where the government will help you with the cost of your training.

“VET Student Loans is an Australian Government program that helps eligible students enrolled in approved courses at diploma level or above, pay their tuition fees,” Eastman says. She explains that repayment is based on your income, so you only start paying off the loan once you earn above the minimum repayment threshold.