Thinking of studying in Australia but don’t know where to start? Here's a breakdown of the Australian education system and the various tertiary options available to you.
Primary and secondary education in Australia and the Philippines: What’s the difference?
Similarly to the Philippine system, Australians attend school for 12 years, after which they can pursue tertiary education. The 12 years of schooling is divided into six years of primary school and then six years of secondary school.
How to study in Australia: Your tertiary education options
Vocational Education and Training (VET)/Colleges
Australian VET is based on partnerships between government and industry. Qualifications can be attained through public government-funded institutions called Technical and Further Education (TAFE) or through private institutions. Various TAFE sites are present all over the country, and can be a good choice for you if you want to learn occupational skills.
Unlike in the Philippines, colleges in Australia mostly focus on vocational courses, and not bachelor degrees. When people speak of colleges, they mostly refer to VET schools. In the Philippines, colleges and universities are used interchangeably, whereas in Australia, they refer to different qualifications.
What qualifications can you get from a VET college?
Qualifications are divided into six levels: certificate I to IV (around four to 18 months to complete), diploma (18 to 24 months), and advanced diploma (24 to 36 months). Students in VET courses have the flexibility to choose whether they wish to take certificate courses only or continue on to an advanced diploma. Attaining an advanced diploma may let you apply for a bachelor’s degree if you want to continue studying.
Who should consider attending a VET college?
VET is a good option for students who wish to learn practical skills and get a job in a related field without committing to a possibly costlier bachelor’s degree. VET also provides flexibility to students as you can choose to stop at a certain level, and still hold a qualification. The system can be likened to a “one step at a time” approach, and you can attain a qualification as you go. For example, if you choose to study a certificate I course, you will hold a certificate I qualification after four to six months and can choose to stop or move forward with the certificate II course. Though VET may be a good option for some, always consider what your end goals are. If your dream job requires a bachelor’s degree, you need to go to a university instead.
Studying at a VET college could lead to the following career opportunities:
- Dental assistant/hygienist
- Auto mechanic
- Legal assistant
- Admin assistant
Studying at an Australian university to attain a bachelor’s degree
To be eligible to apply at a university in Australia, you must have at least have completed 12 years of basic education, comparable to a year 12 qualification. Alternatively, you may transition from a diploma or advanced diploma level at a VET school to a bachelor’s degree at a university. Do note that admission requirements may differ at various institutions. It’s always best to check the admission requirements of the institution you’re applying to.
Most bachelor degrees take around four to five years to complete and are academic-based. To compare it to VET qualifications, VET courses are more practical and engage in a lot of field practice.
Who should go to a university?
If you are considering a highly skilled job then university is probably right for you. Holding a bachelor’s degree is also often required to get a job in certain industries. There are also some fields of study that are only available at a university.
There are several scholarship options available for Filipino students too.
Some occupations that require a bachelor’s degree are:
- Graduate employee in a graduate programme
- Marketing executive
A graduate diploma and certificate
For those who have attained a bachelor’s degree, you have the option to continue your studies further by taking a graduate diploma or certificate course. A graduate diploma course usually takes around six months to complete, while a graduate certificate takes around a year to a year and a half.
A graduate diploma or a graduate certificate are especially good options if, for example, you have been working for a while after attaining a bachelor’s degree and you want to upskill in your field of work.
A master’s degree
This is a good option for you if you want to advance further in your chosen career path.
A master’s degree can also be a good “foot in the door” strategy into the Australian workforce if you have already attained a bachelor’s degree in another country, and want to gain local work experience. Having local experience in Australia may benefit you in your chosen career path, wherever you wish to work and stay.
How long does it take to complete a master’s degree in Australia?
A master’s degree can take a year to three years, depending on your chosen field of study. Obtaining a master’s may also make you eligible to apply for a Post-graduate Work visa, a visa that lets you work in Australia for two years.
A master’s degree could lead to the following career opportunities:
- Education administrator
- Healthcare social worker
How to get a doctorate (PhD)
A doctorate degree is the highest educational level in Australia. The abbreviated term “PhD” stands for Doctor in Philosophy and can refer to various fields in arts and sciences. This is different from an “MD”, which stands for “medical doctor”.
Generally, doctorate degrees require a master’s degree for you to be eligible to apply, but some doctorate programmes may only require a bachelor’s and some research work experience. Most doctorate programmes are research-based wherein you work with an academic mentor, and possibly engage in laboratory work.
Unlike master degrees, PhDs are not strictly taught inside a classroom, and the progression of the study is driven mostly by the candidate. In order to fulfil a doctorate, a thesis is often required, which must be assessed by your academic mentor and peers. You are expected to formulate hypotheses and reach new discoveries in your chosen topic.
A doctorate can take from three to seven years, depending on your pace.
A PhD can lead to the following career opportunities:
- Senior lecturer at a University
- Doctor in biomedical engineering
Australian student visas
If you are not an Australian citizen, you will need to apply for an Australian Student visa in order to study in Australia. A perk of being on a Student visa, however, is your ability to work for up to 40 hours per fortnight. This is highly beneficial, as Australia provides one of the highest wages in the world. This means that you can gain local experience, earn a living for yourself, and send money to the Philippines while studying.