After the HSC, there are many options

When you’re thinking about your post HSC life don’t feel too pressured about having to get into university.

There’s many possible pathways to your chosen career. A good starting point is to take a careers quiz to see what fits your personality and interests.

University is not necessarily the answer. Many jobs don’t require a university degree at all.

Check out these other options which may be just as beneficial.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

Enrolling in a VET course (through TAFE NSW or a private provider) is a great idea if you’re sure of your pathway and want to get the necessary skills and qualifications to get there. VET gives you authentic, hands-on practical experience where you work in the workplace and gain skills specific to your chosen industry. You can work as an apprentice or trainee meaning you’ll be learning the ropes from a mentor currently working in the industry. VET courses are all about being trained to work in your chosen career whether it’s manufacturing or construction or business or hospitality or transport or one of many other fields.

VET courses range from 6 months to 2 years or more. They cover Certificates I-IV through to Advanced Diplomas and even some degrees. The great thing about VET is the qualifications are nationally recognised. So you can use them to work anywhere in Australia. Apprenticeships are usually 3 to 4 years and traineeships are around 2 years.

It’s also important to remember doing VET doesn’t stop you also going to university if you want to. Many students do a VET course to get an insight into their chosen industry and see if they’ll like it. Or to get some practical experience before getting a diploma or a degree. Many universities now offer direct entry to some courses for those people holding an appropriate VET qualification.

You may be eligible for a fee free apprenticeship or traineeship from the NSW Government, so it’s worth looking into if you’re interested. Visit Fee-free training for apprentices.

Are you ready for the next step after Year 12?

Take a pathway into a career that will grow your future while growing NSW.

The NSW Government Infrastructure Traineeship is a two-year paid program where, as a Year 12 leaver, you will work in public and private organisations on infrastructure projects. You'll also study one-day a week at TAFE for a Certificate IV in Business, Project Management Practice, or Procurement and Contracting.  

Applications are now open for people interested in the 2024 program intake. Find out what this traineeship opportunity looks like for you.

Work, study and experience - together.


TAFE NSW provides a direct alternative pathway to university. Instead of studying for three or four years or more you can get qualifications much faster. Diplomas, short courses and certificates all range from a few months to 3 years. TAFE is very flexible and there's also options to speed up your course so you get qualified more quickly. There are 130 TAFE locations across NSW so finding one in your area shouldn’t be a problem. TAFE NSW has different study options. Some courses have a mix of classroom learning with practical hands-on learning depending on your preferences. Many courses come with guaranteed internship and placements so you’ll get off to a great career start once you finish your course. TAFE NSW covers everything from business and engineering through to ICT, creative industries, agriculture and sales and retail.

TAFE NSW offers Associate Degrees, Bachelor Degrees, Graduate Certificates and Microcredentials. You can potentially use qualifications from TAFE to get into University and they often count as a credit of one or two years towards a degree. However, TAFE qualifications are strong in their own right and you may not need a university degree at all.

TAFE NSW is excellent for getting a good mix of classroom learning and practical experience as well as setting you up for a career in your preferred field. TAFEs will partner with industry and help you find a job. Even if you’re not entirely sure about your career path, a TAFE qualification is a great way to narrow down your options or discover your passions.

Gap Year

If you’re not totally sure what you want to do with your career - don’t be worried. It can take years to discover what your true career path is. Also, it’s quite normal to change careers multiple times during your life. It’s better to take time and figure out where you want to go rather than rush into a career you may not enjoy.

For these reasons, taking a gap year can be a great way to help expand your horizons and give you time to reflect and explore your interests.

And if you thought taking a gap year might set you back, here’s an interesting statistic: students who take a gap year are more likely to complete a degree or qualification than those who enter straight from school .

This study shows gap year students are more likely to work and earn an income whilst taking a gap year. Most gap year students are motivated and getting great experience in the workforce.

Your gap year could be a year of study, work or travel or a mixture of the three. It’s really up to you. Think of it as a year entirely devoted to your own personal research into yourself! For more ideas, a great place to start is Year 13.

A gap year is not an alternative to higher education in itself. But it’s a great way to discover what you love or don’t like. It will help you make important connections and dip your toes into the workforce. And depending on where you do your gap year, you’ll open up your eyes to new cultures and perspectives. Wherever you do your gap year you’ll have amazing experiences to shape your thinking and strengthen your decision making.

Work experience or internships

Is there an industry or career you’re seriously considering? An unpaid internship or job placement or work experience is a terrific way to help decide if that job’s right for you. You’ll be in the thick of the work environment, getting valuable inside experience and seeing how the workplace functions. Plus, you’ll have an active role in assisting and testing your skills and knowledge.

Internships look great on your CV. Also they help you network and get a foot in the door of the company or organisation you’re interested in. In a competitive work environment having inside contacts and experience counts for a lot. If you do extremely well in your internship it may lead to a direct job offer at the end of it. Or you can potentially use your internship employers as references for another job.

Be aware internships are usually low level. They may not be as fulfilling as you anticipate. But you should make sure both you and the employer are crystal clear about what each will get from your internship and what’s involved. Also, it’s important your internship meets the guidelines of what an internship is meant to be.

One good rule of thumb is: are you doing work for an employer that would normally be paid?


Looking to find out more? Check out the following links.


  • Life after HSC


  • Educational finance
  • Further study
  • Life after HSC

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  • Communication and Engagement
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