What is Vocational Education and Training (VET)?

In Australia, vocational education and training (VET) is study that offers you the opportunity to learn specific and practical job skills. It’s the perfect route for international students who are looking for a quicker path into the workforce and a focus on real-world and industry-based skills.

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Last Updated Wednesday 13th March, 2024

VET courses cover a wide range of industries including trades/apprenticeships, retail, hospitality, technology and administration - whatever you want to learn, there’s a VET course for that in Australia.

What is VET?

VET is distinct, as it is focuses on teaching practical skills that will help you:

  • Enter the workforce for the first time (either in Australia or in your home country
  • Rejoin the workforce after a break
  • Develop, update and improve your skills in your chosen field
  • Have up-to-date skills so you can easily move into a different career

Studying VET in Australia is beneficial because it offers:

  • Hands-on experience in industry-standard training facilities.
  • An alternative pathway into university through partnerships or credit transfers.
  • Earlier entry into the workforce, as VET qualifications often take less time to complete than a university degree.
  • City and regional education – there is flexibility in where you can study across the country.

Who offers VET in Australia?

VET courses are organised by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), which ensures that the qualification being studied is nationally recognised. As a VET student, you can be assured of high-quality education and job training.

RTOs include Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes (for example, TAFE SA) and private colleges (including specialised colleges such as technical colleges). Some universities may offer VET courses in addition to other higher education courses. You can find a full list of registered RTOs in Australia on the My Skills website.

RTOs that wish to offer their courses to international students must also be registered with the Australian Government’s Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). You can find a full list of CRICOS-registered providers on the CRICOS website.

CRICOS allows the Australian Government to monitor and assess the education offered to international students and ensure that it is always of a high quality.

VET courses and qualifications

Those completing a VET course can achieve any of the following levels, all of which are accredited to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) standards.

Certificate I to IV

If you’re looking for an introduction to a new field, are looking to update your skills or haven’t studied in a while, a certificate is the perfect place for you to start.

These courses offer the basic knowledge, skills and training required in a specific industry. Put simply, the higher the certificate number, the higher the level of skill you will have when you graduate.

With a Certificate I, you will have knowledge and skills for initial work, while a Certificate IV will give you the practical and theoretical skills for more specialised skilled work.

Certificates vary in length from six months to two years, meaning they’re great if you want to jump straight into work.


If your goal is to specialise in a field or move into a more senior role in your industry, then a diploma may be perfect for you, as it provides you with a more thorough knowledge in your area of study. A diploma will prepare you for industry, business and paraprofessional careers.

A diploma can also be used as a pathway to further study, including a Bachelor’s degree. Some diplomas may allow you to transfer credits to another higher education course, giving you a head-start and shortening the length of your degree.

Diplomas usually take one to two years to complete with full-time study.

Advanced diploma

The biggest difference between a diploma and an advanced diploma is the extra time it takes to complete the more advanced learning. An advanced diploma is also an excellent pathway into a Bachelor’s degree.

Advanced diplomas take between 1.5 to two years of study to complete.

English language courses

Many VET providers also offer English language courses, meaning you can develop your English language skills while preparing yourself for the workforce. These can be shorter courses lasting four weeks, to longer, more involved courses lasting 48 weeks. You can read more about learning English in Australia.

What’s the difference between VET and higher education?

VET courses typically focus on the practical skills that you will need for certain industries, whereas higher education (universities) tends to place a stronger emphasis on theory and analysis. VET may also require you to study outside of class, known as ‘off the job’ training. This means you will gain hands-on experience from your training provider. So, if you would prefer to get straight into real-life work scenarios, VET may well be perfect for you!

VET offers a wide range of courses and qualifications at foundation level studies – you can even tailor your course to very specific skills. For example, you can study live production and technical services (i.e. working behind the scenes in theatre, film or TV), fashion design, or even cheesemaking.

VET as a pathway to university

If you’re an international student that doesn’t quite have the requirements to enter an Australian university, or you want to try a specific course before undertaking a lengthy degree, you can use your VET qualification as a pathway to higher education.

Those who complete a VET course with a Certificate IV and above are eligible to continue further study in the higher education sector. Depending on the course and entry requirements, VET can also provide prior learning credit to higher level qualifications, meaning you might be able to take a few years off your degree.

Entry requirements for VET

The entry requirements for VET vary depending on the course you are interested in studying. While some require the completion of a certain level of education, others have no prerequisite.

Basic tests such as literacy and numeracy are necessary for the entry process of some courses in order to show that you have the ability to fulfil the standard of work that is expected of you. Interviews and portfolios may also be an entry requirement for more popular subjects, so make sure you’re prepared for these.

If you do not meet the specific entry requirements for your course, then you are eligible to apply for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This allows for your previous work history and life experience to be considered and potentially recognised to meet the requirements. Note that all VET providers, such as TAFE SA, are designed to be highly accessible and welcoming for all individuals who wish to further their study.

As an international student, you must also have an approved student visa, meet the English language requirements, and have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

How do I apply for VET courses?

One you’ve found the perfect VET course for you, you’ll have to apply online. There is a separate application process for international students, so ensure you find the right one. If you’re struggling to locate the international student application, contact your chosen VET provider and they will be able to help you.

As an example, the TAFE SA website provides a detailed explanation on how to complete the ‘International Online Application Service’. Once you have completed the application process and met the entry requirements, you can apply online for your desired course.

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