What is a VET Course

In this section we discuss:

What does VET offer?

Vocational Education and Training (VET) focuses on providing practical skills for work, allowing graduates to:

  • join the workforce for the first time
  • re-join the workforce after a break
  • upgrade skills in their chosen field
  • move into a different career
  • enter higher education.

VET may be completed off-the-job in education institutions such as TAFE institutes and private providers, but also forms a significant part of apprenticeships and traineeships, where VET qualifications are completed alongside paid employment in a real workplace environment.

What does VET involve?

It might be fair to say that VET courses tend to focus more on providing occupational skills, whereas university courses are better known for focusing on theory and professional career paths. Of course, there are many exceptions to this simple statement due to VET covering such a wide range of courses and qualifications.

VET courses cover the following areas:

  • basic life skills such as literacy and numeracy training (pre-vocational training or foundation studies, for example)
  • Australian Apprenticeships and traineeships
  • basic vocational skills for particular occupations (floristry or automotive, for example)
  • semi-professional vocational training (business advertising or occupational health and safety, for example).

VET courses require students to complete "off-the-job" study at their training provider and institution-set assessments throughout their training to demonstrate that they have achieved the required skill levels.

Most VET courses are part of national training packages, which are updated regularly in consultation with relevant industry bodies. They also follow the same framework wherever you study them, with all students required to meet the same "competencies" in order to gain their qualification. So, if you need to move interstate during your course, you can transfer your credits to an identical program at a different organisation. This standardised, competency-based system also makes it easy to progress to higher-level qualifications (often with credit) and, in some cases, gain your qualification when the required skill level is achieved rather than over a set number of years.

While individual institutions are required to meet these national standards by following the competencies and guidelines outlined in each training package, they have the ability to deliver the training as they see fit and in their own timeframe.

VET courses differ from university degrees because of their practical focus, shorter completion time and lower cost, but they also offer a lower qualification level than a degree, so be sure to check what level of qualification is required to enter your intended occupation.

Types of VET courses

Certificate I-IV

These courses provide introductory skills and training, delivering industry-specific knowledge and skills in communication, literacy and numeracy, and teamwork. They vary in length from six months to two years.


Diplomas prepare students for industry, enterprise and paraprofessional careers. Some diploma courses can be completed at university level as well as at RTOs. Diplomas typically require one to two years of full-time study.

Advanced diploma

An advanced diploma provides a high level of practical skills for advanced skilled or paraprofessional work in areas such as accounting, building design and engineering. Some advanced diploma courses can be completed at university level. Advanced diplomas vary in length from eighteen months to two years of full-time study.

Vocational graduate certificate/diploma

The vocational graduate certificate and diploma are the equivalent of the higher education graduate certificate and diploma. They provide high-level employment-related skills and knowledge. The graduate certificate usually requires six months to a year of full-time study, and the graduate diploma usually requires one to two years of full-time study. There are not many of these courses on offer, but those that are available are usually offered in areas such as business, education and technology.

VET entry requirements

Entry requirements vary depending on the institution and course you choose. Some courses have no entry requirements, while others may require the completion of Year 10, Year 11 or Year 12. You may also be required to submit a portfolio, attend an interview or complete an audition for certain courses. See Getting into a course for more information.

While most applications for VET study are submitted directly to the institution, applications for some courses need to be submitted to the Tertiary Admission Centre in your state or territory. Contact your institution for more information about their application procedure, as they can vary significantly. See The tertiary application process for more information.

VET pathways

One of the great things about VET is its pathway network. VET qualifications provide an excellent basis to enter the workforce, but also provide you with a base to progress to higher-level qualifications. With the VET sector renowned for its accessibility, it is quite possible for students to enter into a certificate course and then progress to a diploma, advanced diploma or bachelor degree by working their way up from qualification to qualification. You may even be granted credit for previous studies, cutting down the time required to complete a higher-level qualification.

Where are VET courses offered?

VET courses are offered through both public and private Registered Training Organisations — most commonly through TAFE institutes and private providers. They are also offered through schools, industry bodies and adult and community education centres. See Types of institutions for more information.

VET study options

As you begin to explore your VET options, you may find that each course offers a variety of additional study options. Some will include hands-on work-integrated learning components, while others will enable you to enter mid-year or take a study tour overseas. Your career goals and personal preferences will dictate the course options that are essential to you, so make a note of the added extras that you feel are important and use these to narrow down your shortlist. The most common course options at VET level include:

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