Private RTO VS TAFE: Understanding VET Monday, July 13, 2020

Certificates and Diplomas are delivered by a number of Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions. If you have been researching study options, chances are you have heard of TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and RTOs (Registered Training Organisations).

Both TAFE and RTOs are providers of Vocational Education and Training, offering a range of qualifications across many industries. 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.

The rise of Vocational Education and Training

Due to the practical nature of VET and their focus on practical learning outcomes for specific careers, VET is a popular way to train or upskill. It can also provide pathways to higher studies, such as university. In 2018, 4.1 million students were enrolled in either a certificate, a diploma or an advanced diploma course according to the most recent figures from NCVER.

VET appeals to both mature age learners and school leavers alike as NCVER states that 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%.

What is a registered training organisation (RTO)?

An RTO (Registered Training Organisation) is a provider of nationally-accredited courses. It may be privately-run (such as Selmar or Practical Outcomes), or government-run (TAFE).

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. Let’s examine some of the differences you might encounter:

Education and 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 and Practical Outcomes have 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).

Costs and funding options

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 modes offered

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.

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.

The Catalyst Education RTOs

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.

Catalyst Education operates three privately-run RTOs: Selmar Institute of EducationPractical Outcomes and Royal College of Healthcare which all deliver high-quality, specialised training in early childhood education and care, aged care and disability care. We have been training for more than 15 years and are committed to educating students to thrive in their chosen career.

Our compassionate and caring trainers and learner success advisors provide support from start to finish and work to ensure that students graduate with the knowledge and capabilities they need to become job-ready for the real world.

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.

Go back to News