It can be hard to talk about your post-school options when you know you don’t want to go to uni, but there are totally legit reasons for thinking this way. Maybe you just aren’t interested in any of the courses, or you can’t hack four more years of study, or an academic classroom just isn’t for you. Whatever your reason, it’s important to understand that you’re not being left behind just because you’re not going to uni. There’s still plenty of other options.

Private colleges and universities

These are small, independent education institutions that are not operated or funded by the government. They usually offer a specialised range of courses for a specific field, such as hospitality, performing arts, or digital media, which makes them a great option for those wishing to succeed in something more specialised.

Private colleges and unis can offer vocational education and training (VET) courses, higher education (undergraduate and postgraduate degrees), or both. Entry into VET courses offered by these institutions are similar to TAFE entry requirements, and an ATAR is usually not needed for their degrees. Instead, they may require an interview or look at any portfolios you may have.

Course fees are generally more expensive than TAFE or public universities, but you may be eligible for a FEE-HELP loan to assist you. These costs are balanced by smaller classrooms and more student attention, as well as specialised teaching and facilities that are highly tailored to the kind of industry and career you want to get into. 

Vocational education

VET courses are designed to give students the practical skills they need for work, rather than just the theoretical basis that university is sometimes known for. They are taught at Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), the most common of which are the government-run TAFEs throughout Australia. Other RTOs include private providers and community organisations.

The qualifications offered through VET range from Certificates I-IV, Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Graduate Certificate, and Graduate Diploma, as well as degrees that are equivalent to a bachelor-level qualification. They can take between 6 months to 4 years to complete depending on the qualification. Some Certificates will have no entry requirements, while higher Certificates and Diplomas may require you to have completed Year 12 (but there’s no need to have received an ATAR).

Government-subsidised places are available at TAFE, which means your tuition fees are partially paid for by the government. For the rest, you may be eligible for a VET Student Loan depending on your course.

Apprenticeship or traineeship

Apprenticeships and traineeships are an education pathway that combines on-the-job training from a real business with formal training at an RTO to gain a VET qualification. Apprenticeships are for learning a skilled trade, like carpentry or hairdressing, while traineeships are generally for a specific vocational area, such as office administration or information technology. Apprenticeships usually take 3-4 years to complete while a traineeship is around 1-2 years. However–because they are competency-based–if you’re doing well with your training then you have the potential to finish your qual faster and enter the workforce sooner.

There are no entry requirements for apprenticeships and traineeships (although some employers might require you to have a license or potentially a White Card/police check/working with children check, etc). You just need to find a business willing to employ and train you. One of the best things about this pathway is that you’re actually paid for your work, so you’re earning money whilst in-training, so it’s a great way to combine work and study whilst still moving towards a bigger qualification. 

Short courses

There’s also a whole range of short courses you can study that can take days, weeks, or months to complete. They range from fun to useful and can either help develop your hobby or career. There are photography courses and computer design courses, as well as things like a barista course or the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) which is necessary to get before you can work in a bar.

Short courses are a great way to test out some of your different passions before you decide what pathway you want to pursue. You can study them at all different kinds of institutions including TAFEs, RTOs, and universities. 


Of course, if you’re totally over studying as a whole you can just join the workforce right away and start earning money. You’ll get a head start compared to all your mates, gaining valuable experience and working your way up the ladder while they’re stuck in a classroom. You can also use internships to gain more experience, but make sure to look after yourself and find an internship that treats you well and is right for you. 

Take a gap year

The last choice you have is to delay making a choice by going on a gap year. Work, volunteer, or travel the world – either way, you’ll be working on you and chances are you’ll come back with a better understanding of what you want to be when you grow up. Plus, who doesn’t need a holiday?

This article was written in partnership with the Australian Government Department of Education and Training’s ‘real skills for real careers’ initiative to raise the profile of vocational education and training. If you’re keen to see what VET qualifications are on offer, jump over to the My Skills site here.