Your Guide to the Different Types of Study in Australia

There are lots of different ways to study in Australia. As an international student, you can choose between a range of courses depending on the career path you are interested in, as well as your study preferences, budget, and how long you are planning to study in Australia.

Once you’ve decided which type of education will be the best fit for you, you can continue your research into specific institutions and the courses they offer. To get you started, we’ve put together a guide covering all the possibilities for studying in Australia.

Secondary education

If you haven’t finished high school yet, you can apply to study at a secondary school in Australia. International students are eligible to enrol in many public schools (government-run) and independent schools (religious and other non-government schools) from ages 12 to 18. Australian secondary schools are respected internationally thanks to the broad curriculum, small class sizes, advanced facilities and high-quality teachers.

Your secondary schooling in Australia will cover subjects like English, mathematics, science, technology, languages, creative arts and humanities. There are also dedicated sports and performing arts secondary schools that you may be interested in applying to. If you successfully complete Year 12 at an Australian secondary school, you will be awarded an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) that will come in handy if you intend to continue on to university in Australia.

Each state in Australia has its own process for applying to public schools. You can find out more below:

Fees can be up to $20,000 per year for public school, and more for independent schools. For independent schools, you will need to apply directly to the school you are interested in. Education agents can also help you with your application to educational institutions in Australia.

University degrees

A degree from an Australian university could be a great way to start your career. All universities in Australia are open to international students, for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

The Australian National University (ANU) is the top university in the country according to the QS World University Rankings, coming in at 29th in the world. The University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the University of Queensland (UQ) all rank in the global top 50. Many of Australia’s universities rank highly for technical subjects too, like design at RMIT, nursing at UTS, and mineral and mining engineering at Curtin University.

Tuition costs vary depending on what you choose to study and how many subjects you take each semester. To apply, you will need to follow the instructions on each institution’s website. Usually, there will be a form available that you can fill out and upload to the website.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

Vocational Education and Training (VET) is a type of education in Australia that focuses on providing practical and technical skills for particular jobs. VET covers everything from trades and construction to business, beauty and creative arts. Many providers also offer English courses and other support for international students. TAFE, a government-run institution, is the largest VET provider in the country, although there are other options. You can find a full list of VET providers on the Australian Government training website.

VET providers generally offer a variety of qualifications, ranging from Certificates to Advanced Diplomas. VET courses can last from six months to three years and often involve an internship or another on-the-job training component. To apply, you will need to complete an application form and submit it via the website of your chosen institution.

Pathway courses

If you didn’t finish high school or don’t quite meet the entry requirements for university, many TAFE, universities and specialist colleges offer pathways to enter an undergraduate degree. Pathway courses (also known as foundation studies) can help you meet university entry requirements and are an easy way to settle into life in Australia.

To figure out which pathway course could help you, you should first choose a university degree to aim for and work backwards from there. Universities often have their own colleges or have links with particular TAFE courses. Some pathway courses even guarantee entry into a particular degree upon successful completion.

These courses are usually one-year, university-style classes designed to prepare you for your chosen degree. They also often include intensive English and academic support. You will need to apply directly to your chosen institution via their website.

English classes

Studying English in Australia is a good first step for those who are still working on their language skills. You can study English at TAFE or another VET provider, or look for a registered English school.

You’ll likely come across courses called ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students). Enrolling in one of these courses means you can apply for an ELICOS Sector Student Visa (subclass 570). You can choose from small private colleges with group tuition, secondary schools, large universities or VET providers. You’ll find a list of ELICOS providers on the website, and then you can apply directly to the school that you are interested in.

Short courses

Short courses are useful when you want to add some skills to your resume or pick up a new hobby without committing to a full university degree. They take under a year to complete and highlight practical skills, like bookkeeping, photography, event management or social media management.

Short courses are available at TAFE, universities and other institutions. Prices vary widely due to the range of different course structures on offer, with some consisting of one class a week for six months while others involving an intensive one-month course. If your course lasts less than 12 weeks, you may be able to apply for a visitor visa or a working holiday visa. However, these visas do not allow you to work in Australia.

Things to remember when you study in Australia

No matter which type of education you choose, you should always look for an institution that is registered through the Australian Department of Education’s CRICOS system. The institutions on this register are required to meet government standards for international students, so you can be sure you are not getting scammed or receiving a low-quality education.

Also, make sure you’re familiar with the top five student visas that will let you study in Australia, learn how to transfer from a Working Holiday or Visitor visa to a Student visa, and find out our top tips for putting together a great student visa application.