Five myths about higher education

Illustrative representation of Five myths about higher education

Myth 1. University is the only way to get a good job.

What do you define as a 'good' job? Is it a job that you enjoy and are good at? Or is it a prestigious role that earns a lot of money?

If someone isn’t well suited to a particular role, they will never be happy in it. Regardless of how much it pays or whether others think it is prestigious.

So how do you get a ‘good’ job?

If being well suited to, and enjoying a role is most important to you, finding out about your work preferences is a good start. This includes thinking about the kinds of tasks you like doing and the work environments that suit you.

Once you decide what you want out of a job and the types of jobs that might suit you, you need the investigate how you might get there.

Possible pathways include university, Vocation Education and Training (VET), Australian Apprenticeships, paid work and volunteering. It's likely a mix of a few of these options will be the best approach.

Myth 2. A qualification is all you need for success.

The world of work is rapidly changing. Today’s youth are predicted to have as many as 17 different jobs over 5 distinct careers over their lifetime!1 That’s a new job every 2 or 3 years and a total career change every 8-9 years! Many jobs that exist today will be gone and new jobs will be created to replace them.

Focusing on building the skills that are applicable to all jobs is key to adapting to this new world of work.

Called ‘employability’ or ‘workplace’ skills, these are the skills all employers look for and value in workers. They include things like resilience, creativity, innovation, teamwork and problem-solving.

These are the key traits that will keep young people employed and help them transition from role to role.

So, how do you get these skills?

The best way to build these skills is through work experience (paid or unpaid) or participation in group or community activities (e.g. sport, music, volunteering).

Being able to demonstrate these to an employer in a work context is critical when looking for a job. Employers want workers who can fit within their business.

Myth 3. A degree is your ticket to a job.

A university degree may have once been a guaranteed way to get a job. But that’s not the case anymore.

More people are going to university than ever before, so competition for jobs among graduates is fierce. New graduates are now competing for jobs with other graduates as well as other workers with many years work experience.

According to data from early 2017, 28 per cent of recent university graduates who were looking for full-time employment were yet to find it2. What’s worse is that three years after finishing their course, 11 per cent of bachelor-degree graduates still didn’t have full-time work.3

So how do you become more competitive for jobs?

The solution is to balance any study with work experience. This could be doing work placements as part of your course, internships or working part-time while you study. This helps you show employers you have both the technical and workplace skills to be an asset to their business.

Myth 4. VET is only for kids that couldn’t get into university.

This is probably the biggest misconception about VET study.

VET is for anyone who wants to balance learning with practical hands on experience. Many young people select VET because they know that it’s a good way to build the skills employers are looking for.

Facts about VET:

  • VET training is co-designed with employers, so the training meets their needs and makes graduates more competitive for their jobs.  
  • Many VET courses have a work experience component so students can connect with local employers while studying. This makes getting a job easier after graduation.
  • Some young people use VET as a pathway into further education, like university. Many mature age students (many of who previously attended uni) turn to VET to upgrade or re-skill throughout their career.
  • There are over 1,200 courses VET courses. These include certificate level, diplomas and even degrees.
  • VET courses include traditional trades, as well as things like accounting and finance, engineering, nursing, IT, fitness, design and business.

Myth 5. VET graduates earn less than university grads.

The truth is that VET graduates have a higher initial earning capacity than bachelor graduates. A bachelor graduate's median salary is $54,000. A VET graduate's median full-time income is $56,000.4

VET graduates generally also find a full-time job quicker than uni graduates.5 Plus VET courses are usually shorter than degrees so VET graduates start making money sooner than university graduates.

Another plus - VET courses tend to be much less expensive (some are completely free!) than university degrees so there is much less (or no) debt to repay down the line.

Want to learn more?

The Career Industry Council of Australia (CICA) has released a video for parents to dispel some common misconceptions about VET. Watch the video.

References:

1. Foundation for Young Australians Report 'The new work mindset' (https://www.fya.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/The-New-Work-Mindset.pdf)

2. Wilkins, R. (2018). The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected findings from waves 1 to 16, the 13th annual statistical report of the HILDA survey. Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/

3. Perceptions Are Not Reality: myths, realities & the critical role of vocational education & training in Australia’, was released by the Skilling Australia Foundation 2017

4. Perceptions Are Not Reality: myths, realities & the critical role of vocational education & training in Australia’, was released by the Skilling Australia Foundation 2017

5 Foundation for young Australians report 'How are young people faring in the transition from school to work? 2015 http://www.fya.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/How-young-people-are-faring-report-card-2015-FINAL.pdf

More resources to help you

…Or you can browse Job Jumpstart for other ideas and suggestions of what to do next.