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What to do after completing Higher Secondary Education

by Marianne Stenger
Posted: December 17, 2019

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So, you’re currently in Year 12 and have almost earned your certificate. All you have to do now is get through your final exams. But what happens after that? 

Feeling a certain amount of stress and anxiety when it comes to deciding your next step after secondary education is totally normal and understandable. In fact, one national survey found that young people are increasingly worried about the future. 

But if you’re currently in the process of choosing your career and study pathways, don’t panic. Regardless of what your personal interests or career goals might be, there are plenty of options. 

The most obvious choice after completing your secondary studies, of course, is a traditional four-year degree. But although university can be a wonderful investment, it is a big commitment in terms of time and money, and there are a number of reasons why it may not appeal to every student.

So, from enrolling in a VET course to taking a gap year, here is an overview of some of the study pathways available to school leavers in Australia. 

VET courses

Vocational learning or vocational education and training can be an excellent way for secondary students to develop a specific skill and simultaneously get their career off the ground.

A VET course can lead to a number of different qualifications such as Certificate III, IV, diplomas, and advanced diplomas. The length of a VET course usually varies between six months and two years, depending on the level.

For example, a Certificate I or II qualification provides individuals with basic knowledge and introductory skills that will enable them to move on to further learning or complete routine work. A Certificate IV or diploma would provide you with a broader range of knowledge and more specialised skills. Graduates of an advanced diploma, on the other hand, are considered highly skilled workers and can easily progress to a bachelor’s degree.

Which course would be right for you will depend on a number of factors, such as your career goals and the type of qualification you’ll need in order to pursue these goals, but also whether it is accessible to you.

Year 13 or gap year program

Some schools offer a “Year 13” program for students who weren’t able to attain their Year 12 qualification the first time around. So if Year 12 didn’t exactly go your way and you worry that this will hinder your job prospects or chances of being accepted into certain VET or TAFE courses, undertaking Year 13 can be a great option.

Of course, even after successfully completing Year 12, many students still aren’t what area they’d like to work in and don’t feel ready to commit to a specific course or learning program. If you feel this way, enrolling in a gap year program can be a good opportunity to explore your interests, develop a broader world view, gain valuable work experience, and earn some money.

In fact, research from the University of Sydney found that Australian students who took a gap year as a result of low academic performance during their secondary studies were more motivated during their tertiary education than those who hadn’t.

Australian apprenticeship

An apprenticeship or traineeship is a great way to earn a nationally recognised qualification while also gaining valuable hands-on work experience.

Australian apprenticeships are available to anyone of working age and allow school leavers to acquire new skills and earn an income while also working towards a qualification that can be used anywhere around the world.

So how does it work? Employers usually advertise apprenticeships in the same way they would a regular job opening, which means they also set their own requirements when hiring someone. If you’re interested in starting an apprenticeship, it’s important to identify an area that will suit your abilities, interests, and career goals.

If you’re still at school, speak to your career advisor or counsellor who will be able to provide you with relevant and up-to-date information. Alternatively, you can get advice from your nearest Apprenticeship Network Provider.


Marianne Stenger

Marianne is a London-based freelance Writer and Journalist with extensive experience covering all things learning and development. Her articles have been featured by the likes of ABC Education, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Psych Central.

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