RTO vs TAFE – What is the difference? by Catalyst Marketing on Monday, August 19, 2019

Certificates and Diplomas are delivered by a number of Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions, but when comparing them, it’s good to understand the key differences between the available providers of VET.


The rise of Vocational Education and Training

Because of the practical nature of VET and the focus on learning outcomes for specific careers, VET is a popular way to train or upskill. It can also provide pathways to higher studies. In 2017, 4.2 million students were enrolled in either a certificate, a diploma or an advanced diploma course according to figures from NCVER.

VET appeals to mature age learners and school leavers alike. In 2017, also according to NCVER, the estimated participation rate of VET students in Australia as a proportion of the Australian population aged 15 to 64 years was 24.1%, with participation highest among those aged 15 to 19 years 46.1%.

In Australia, students are most likely to take up a chosen course at an RTO (Registered Training Organisation) or at a TAFE (Technical and Further Education). NCVER figures cite that in 2017 over 2.4 million students chose to undertake their training with a registered training organisation (RTO), and over 739,000 chose to undertake their training with a TAFE.

While these providers may offer many certificates and diplomas of the same name, there are key differences to their approach.

What is an RTO?

An RTO (Registered Training Organisation) is a privately-owned provider of nationally-accredited courses. As RTOs need to stay competitive in the industry, it is generally agreed that they offer students more guidance and hands-on experience with practical placement and strive to develop strong relationships with industry.

RTOs are also 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 will normally offer a wealth of support and guidance to help RTO learners to achieve their goals.

In addition, RTOs also tend to be more specialised, focusing on particular industry or niche be it be child care, aged care, hospitality, building or business.

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 colleges 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. Like RTOs, their certificate and diploma courses are nationally accredited.

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 RTO to TAFE 

When comparing TAFE courses and RTO courses, it’s worth noting that the quality of RTOs can vary. Some students have been left dismayed with the closure of RTOs so it’s always good to do your research. There have also been recent cases where TAFE courses have not gone ahead due to issues with numbers or the ability to source placements. Each VET training provider should be assessed on a case by case basis. 

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.  

Catalyst Education operates three RTOs: Selmar Institute of Education, Practical Outcomes and Royal College of Healthcare which all deliver high-quality, specialised training. Whave been training for more than 15 years and are committed to educating students to thrive in their chosen career. 

Our passionate industry-experienced trainers ensure that students graduate with the knowledge and capabilities they need to succeed in the real world.


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


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