RTOs vs TAFE: What are the differences

Certificates and Diplomas are delivered by a number of Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions. When it comes to study choices, you have probably come across TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and RTOs (Registered Training Organisations) during your research.

TAFE and RTOs are providers of Vocational Education and Training across Australia, and offer qualifications across many industries. So, what is the difference? When comparing these providers of VET, it is important to understand the key differences to ensure you are choosing the provider that best meets your study needs.




Vocational Education and Training for practical skills

Practical learning is a central focus of VET course providers, making it a valuable way to gain qualifications for a range of sectors and careers. VET can also provide pathways to higher studies, such as university. According to the most recent figures from NCVER, 4.1 million students were enrolled in either a certificate, a diploma or an advanced diploma course in 2018. VET courses appeal to both mature age learners and school leavers alike, with NCVER also highlighting the estimated participation rate of VET students in Australia as 24.1% as a proportion of the Australian population aged 15 to 64 years.

What is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO)?

An RTO (Registered Training Organisation) is a provider of nationally-accredited courses. It may be privately-run like we are here at Selmar, or government-run, such as TAFE. That’s right — TAFE is in fact an RTO too.

What is a privately-run RTO?

A privately-run RTO is a training organisation that is owned and operated by a company and often specialises, focusing on particular industry or niche — be it child care, aged care, hospitality, building or business. As a result of specialising in specific sectors, privately-run RTOs often employ teams of trainers who are experts in their respective fields. They often have years of experience working in the sector themselves and truly care about the industry within which they train. This firsthand experience ensures they can offer learners with guidance throughout their training journey plus hands-on experience with practical placement and developing strong relationships with industry.

Privately-run RTOs are more likely to offer all or a proportion of their training online. Even when you take up the option of studying online, a dedicated trainer should offer a wealth of support and guidance to help learners to achieve their goals.

What is TAFE?

Technical and Further Education is something you may not recognise, because most of us know it by it by its acronym: TAFE. These training organisations are financed, owned and operated by the Australian government. Also called technical or career courses, traditionally when compared to university these courses are said to place an emphasis on occupational skills and cover a wide variety of professions and trades. Similar to private RTOs, TAFE’s certificate and diploma courses are nationally accredited and focus on practical training.

TAFE courses are an option for students looking for a broad certification, though class sizes tend to be larger.  They also tend to specialise in classroom delivery rather than online.

Things to consider when comparing private RTOs to TAFE

When comparing TAFE courses with courses run at privately-owned RTOs, it’s worth noting that the quality of all RTOs can vary. Each VET training provider should be assessed on a case by case basis depending on what you are seeking from your training provider. Although private RTOs and TAFE deliver many of the same courses, there do tend to be a few differences in their approach to VET.

Funding your course

Course costs can vary depending on each individuals’ circumstances and funding eligibility. While TAFE and some private RTOs, receive government funding for courses, RTOs tend to have more options for students to access funding support such as payment plans and interest-free student loans.

Delivery mode options

While TAFE courses have set class dates and requirements including a campus to attend classes, privately-run RTOs are likely to give you access to more flexible study options. This could include online courses, individualised pacing of your learning or workplace training, while still receiving support from a dedicated trainer.

University and career pathways

Both TAFE and RTOs can provide students with qualifications such as certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas. While these can help create a pathway to university, some private RTOs have direct university pathways that are integrated into courses. For example, Selmar has a university pathway that allows students to fast-track a Bachelor Degree in Education with Swinburne Online by earning academic credits while studying a Diploma of Early Childhood Education (CHC50113).

Practical experience

Hands-on learning is vital in most VET courses, and so you will find that TAFE and private RTOs both offer this. As a result of strong industry ties through their niche approach to training, RTOs can often provide support for students to access a broader range of practical placement opportunities.

Selmar — a private RTO specialising in aged care and child care

At the end of the day, choosing a provider should come down to the quality of the training and programs provided, as well as the support you’ll get along the way.

At Selmar Institute of Education we have been training for close to two decades, supporting our learners in pursuing their aged care and child care career goals.

Learners at Selmar graduate with the knowledge and capabilities they need to become job-ready for the real world and are supported by compassionate and caring trainers and learner success advisors from beginning to end.

Whichever VET course provider you choose, ensure their offering is aligned with your study preferences, the level of support you need and your career goals.

Contact us if you need guidance on choosing the right provider for your study needs.


Make an enquiry

Facebook IG Instagram LinkedIn Youtube
1300 223 040Enquire Now