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Vocational Trade School or University – Which Is for You?

January 15th, 2021

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.

Check out the range of vocational education and training courses like the Certificate IV in Occupational Health and Safety, the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment or the Cert III in Children’s Services available at your local training provider.