Plan to study after school? Here’s five things to think about.

28 September, 2020
Two female students with books sitting on the floor in the university hallway

Plan to study after school? Here’s five things to think about.

If you’re in Year 10, 11 or 12, figuring out what you want to do next can be challenging.

First off, check out the School Leavers Information Kit. The kit can give you tailored information about education, training and work options as you take your next steps.

So what about the five things?

Studying after school through vocational education and training (VET), or a higher education provider, is something more than half of people choose to do. So, if you want to study after school, here are five things to think about:

Figure out what you really want to do

By now, you might already have an idea of what kind of career you want (or don’t want!) and the kinds of places you think you’d like to work in once you’ve finished school.

Or you might feel totally unsure, which is totally normal and perfectly okay.

Figuring out what you want to do isn’t easy. There are so many choices of study, thousands in fact.

To figure out what you want to study, narrow it down by looking at your own interests and what you are really good at. Have a go at this career quiz to get some ideas.

Speak to your friends, your parents or guardians or your school’s career adviser/your teacher about your future career ideas and the courses that may suit.

While you are deciding, it might be worth thinking about what the generations just ahead of you have done. Many of them have proven that it’s not about staying in one career all your life anymore. People are now switching it up, moving careers five or six times and gaining heaps of skills by doing different things.  

You can also look at the kind of skills employers want (sometimes known as ‘employability skills’). You might already have a bunch of these skills from your weekend jobs or extra-curricular activities. The employability skills all employers want are: 

  • Good communication
  • Motivation and initiative
  • Leadership
  • Reliability/dependability
  • Following instructions
  • Team work
  • Patience
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional control
  • Resilience

The combination of which of these an employer wants and what they might consider more important will vary depending on the role and industry. Check out this factsheet How employable are you? if you want to know more.

Know the different ways you can study

If you want to study after school, or even start a course while you are still at school, there’s thousands of qualifications out there across many fields of work leading to some really interesting careers.

Tertiary qualifications are offered through higher education institutes, like universities or through vocational education and training (VET) registered training organisations/training providers, like TAFEs.

There’s also a great combo of working and studying through apprenticeships or traineeships, which pay you a wage while you learn. 

If you really can’t wait and want to get a head start on your career, you can do an Australian School-based Apprenticeship while you are completing your senior school certificate. Speak to your school’s career adviser or your teacher to check out what is available for you.

Pick the right school subjects 

It can be super hard trying to work out what subjects to choose for Years 11 and 12, especially if you don’t know what you want to study when you’re done.

Pick subjects that interest you (because you’ll probably do well at those subjects).  

If you do know what you want to be, and what you need to study to get there, it helps to pick subjects that give you relevant skills for that course.  

Speak to your school’s career adviser or your teacher to help you decide what subjects would work for you and your career goals.

Know how to get in

Know about entry requirements for VET and higher education, it’ll help you prepare.  


Entry requirements for VET courses aren't based on a mark and are usually set by the registered training organisation/training provider.

Some courses have no entry requirements, some are compulsory, and some just recommended. They may include:

  • the requirement to complete a lower level VET qualification first (e.g. you may need to do the Certificate III before you can do the Certificate IV for some courses)
  • a literacy and/or numeracy assessment (e.g. a registered training organisation/training provider may require a certain level of proficiency in Maths to do a course).

Higher Education

For higher education, you may need an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) or an ATAR-equivalent.

Higher education courses include those provided by universities (other than VET courses, which some higher education providers also deliver) such as bachelors’ degrees or equivalent qualifications from non-university education institutions. 

Many higher education courses need you to have an ATAR or ATAR-equivalent.  Others don’t require an ATAR, and some have additional exams or interviews or need to you have taken particular subjects at school.

Your school can help you with advice about what you need to get into a higher education course.  You can also look at the Course Seeker website.  At that site you can compare courses and find out information about course entry requirements, locations, whether they are face to face to face or online, with links to more detail on university or other education provider sites.  At the CompareEd site you can see what past students have thought about their education providers, and how those students have done in employment and earnings after study.

If you didn’t get in the first time, don’t stress!

It’s important to try hard and do the best you can to get the score (or meet the requirements) you need to get into a course that you want.

But if you didn’t get in to what you wanted the first time, don’t give up.

Try the following:

  • Talk to your career adviser before you finish school and talk about a back-up plan.
  • Try contacting the Tertiary Admissions Centre in your state/territory to change your course preferences.
  • Contact the course coordinator or admissions centre at the higher education provider that you wanted to go to. They can tell about alternative pathways into their courses.

Think about:

  • Studying another course in first year and transferring over to your preferred course in second year.
  • Completing a bridging course during term holidays.
  • Try VET before higher education. VET can help transition you into higher ed, or into great careers straight away.
  • Look for work in the field you are interested in to build your skills and knowledge on the job and ensure the job suits you. If you still need a qualification, you can study part-time while you work.

For help with your career: 

If your wellbeing is being impacted by COVID-19 but you don’t know where to start looking for support, the COVID-19 support page has some information and links that could assist you.

Explore Careers

Narrow down your occupation and study options using one of the pages below.

Complete a quick questionnaire and explore occupations that suit you.

Take your next step now: find the types of jobs currently available or a short course to build on your skills.