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Mythbusters: Why everything you thought about TAFE is wrong.

When it comes time to decide between TAFE and uni, there are plenty of people who will tell you that university is the only way to set yourself up for a great career. But the truth is TAFE graduates earn more, are more employable, and have skills that are more relevant in today’s job market.

The Skilling Australia Foundation released a report focused on the results and outcomes that vocational education and training (VET) — more commonly referred to as TAFE — delivers for students, employers, and the general economy. But despite great outcomes and results that TAFE delivers, many common misconceptions still linger.

Myth #1 busted: TAFE is outdated 

The report found that nearly 50 per cent of Australians believed that TAFE training was no longer as relevant as university education. But the reality is, if Australia wants to compete on a global scale TAFE training is actually more relevant than ever.

Australia is currently facing a skills shortage and the fast-paced rate of change across a wide variety of industries is having a significant impact on our economy. As such, policymakers are increasingly recognising that the training and skills provided by TAFE are what will fill these gaps and diversify our labour pool. TAFE also provides the skills we need to keep up with our quickly changing employment and industry trends.

The research also found that because of TAFE's close alignment to industry, TAFE is actually the best option to improve our workforce's skills because of the currency of courses, their comprehensiveness, and their adaptability to innovations and trends. In summary, TAFE is essential to helping prevent skills shortages and preparing us for the jobs of the future.

Myth #2 busted: Uni grads are more employable than TAFE grads

According to the report, almost 30 per cent of Australians believed that university graduates found work more easily than TAFE graduates. But the truth is TAFE continues to deliver excellent results and outcomes for students, industry, and the Australian economy.

The research found that university graduates actually have a lower employment rate than TAFE graduates, with almost 10 per cent more TAFE students employed after graduating when compared to their university counterparts. The average overall employment rate for TAFE graduates was 78 per cent, but for TAFE graduates who completed a trade-based apprenticeship it was as high as 91 per cent!

The report also showed that completing a TAFE course lowers your chances of becoming long-term unemployed and is one of the most accessible and cost-effective ways to access education to increase your employment opportunities.

Myth #3 busted: TAFE grads earn less than uni grads

When asked about the earning capacity of TAFE and uni graduates, 68 per cent of Australians believed that university graduates earned up to $10,000 more than TAFE graduates with almost a third thinking the wage gap was closer to $20,000.

The good news is this isn't the reality graduates experience. The report found the average TAFE graduate actually earns similar wages to, if not more than, an average university graduate. In addition, TAFE grads also have a median annual starting wage of $2,000 more than uni grads.

The report also found that university usually takes longer to complete and is a less cost-effective way to get a qualification and find employment than TAFE. Another important thing to note is that TAFE gives students the opportunity to earn while they learn, whether that's through an apprenticeship or by studying part time while working in industry. Often that extra practical experience is what gives them an edge over university graduates. Add growing living costs to an extended time frame to get a full-time job, and TAFE is the clear winner when it comes to long-term earning capacity.


If you've been considering your training options, it might be time to challenge your misconceptions and choose TAFE Queensland to help you launch, progress or restart your career.