Further education after graduating from secondary school opens up many career opportunities. Continuing education in a university or college gives you the skills necessary to apply for some of the best jobs. When deciding on which higher education path to choose, you are faced with a dilemma — should you go for an academic education or vocational education?
College vocational education used to be view as training for manual or labour-intensive jobs. So, if you wanted to be a plumber, hairdresser, joiner, or mechanic, vocational education was the only option. If your desire was to pursue a career in business management, law, or medicine, then academic education in a university was the only way forward.
However, education options are changing. Many vocational colleges offer diploma and degree programs in fields such as business management, healthcare, law, and technical industries. Vocational education is no longer just for secondary school students who are not “academic” achievers.
In this article, you will find out the pros and cons of both vocational education and pursuing academic studies at university. This information can help you choose the best type of higher education to get the career you want.
Vocational vs. Academic Education
What are the differences between academic and vocational education?
Modern vocational education and training (VET) is training for a specific industry through a combination of teaching and practical experience. The Australian Government says that VET gives students workplace-specific skills and knowledge.
In many cases, vocational education combines learning in the college environment as well as practical work experience. Some vocational institutions also offer vocational training to postgraduates who want to specialise in a specific area — for example, as a general practitioner (GP).
Other vocational colleges offer diploma courses in industries such as business.
What is academic education?
Of course, any type of learning can be classed as academic. However, the term “academic education” in relation to vocational training usually refers to learning in a university to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s, or other types of degrees.
Vocational Education: Pros and Cons
Let’s look at the benefits and disadvantages of learning in a vocational environment.
- Get practical experience — One of the most significant advantages of vocational education is that you get hands-on experience. Vocational courses are designed to engage you with industry leaders and you learn employment skills on the job.
- Graduate in a quicker time — Most vocational courses are shorter than degree courses. The shorter time to graduate with a diploma also means that vocational learning is cheaper. However, the quality of education isn’t compromised, as vocational graduates usually have the required licenses to enter the workforce immediately.
- Obtain specialised training — Another advantage of VET is that you can get specialised training in your industry. So, rather than graduate with an academic degree and then have to get employment training, you are ready to start work immediately.
- Breaks the “lack of experience” cycle — Graduating with a VET diploma means that you already have the experience employers are looking for. There is less risk of being turned down at an interview because you don’t have enough experience.
- Learn in a dynamic environment — Many international vocational colleges draw in students from all over the world. This diversity makes learning exciting and also opens up life and career opportunities.
- Limited scope — One of the disadvantages is that your area of expertise may be restricted. Vocational courses tend to be focused on one type of career. If you decide to change career paths, you may need additional education.
- Academic learning — Some, but not all, vocational colleges focus primarily on training and less on theoretical knowledge. However, this is usually when learning trades such as mechanics, beauty, or similar.
Academic Education: Pros and Cons
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a university education.
- A broad scope of learning — An academic education usually encompasses a broad range of related subjects. This type of learning can be useful in choosing between many different careers.
- Career prospects — For some types of jobs, the only way to get employment is if you have a university degree. This is true of many careers in medicine, law, and science.
- Employers’ preferences — Many employers still give preference to job applicants with a university degree. However, with the development of high-quality vocational colleges, many employers now prefer job applicants who have vocational diplomas due to their experience.
- Develop a wide range of skills — University education can train students to develop critical thinking and communication skills.
- Lack of technical skills — Because university education is focused on learning, graduates often lack the technical or practical skills needed in the current job market. So, you can leave with a lot of theory but very few employment skills.
- Expensive — A significant drawback for many people is the high cost of university education. Many graduates leave university with debts that may take many years to clear.
- Intensive workload — Pursuing an academic education that involves lectures, seminars, and personal research is very intense. Added to that—many students have to work to support themselves during their studies.
- Time — Most university degree courses are four years long. To study for a master’s degree or doctoral degree will take even more time.
Which is Best Vocational or Academic Education?
In the end, no one can say which type of education is better. Both vocational courses and university education have their advantages and disadvantages.
Vocational colleges offer a wide range of courses that can be classified as academic. Graduates leave with diplomas and workplace experience that can help them get a job quicker. However, specialised training may limit career opportunities in the future.
Academic education involves intensive learning on a wide range of industry-related subjects. Graduate degrees can open up a wide range of job opportunities. However, many university graduates find that they don’t have the experience that employers are looking for.
Contact us today to find out how to improve your career prospects at SELC.