What’s the difference between TAFE and RTO?

Where to go after high school is over? University, TAFE, RTO, work… Exploring all options and understanding the differences can feel overwhelming. If practical, vocational knowledge appeals to you more than academic learning and research, then you’ve probably already contemplated: what is the exact difference between TAFE and RTO, and how do I decide what’s best for me?

Let’s unveil it.

Both TAFE and RTO provide students with practical knowledge and diplomas and certifications necessary to start building a career in the industry of your choice. They will both provide you with hands-on experience aside from regular classroom classes, while some will also offer internship options.

So… What’s the difference?

The Core Difference

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) is a government-owned college system that provides education and official diplomas and certificates.

Registered Training Organisations (RTO), on the other hand, are private colleges that provide nationally recognised training services in VET — vocational education and training. RTO are independent entities, but they are regulated by the ASQA (Australian Skills Quality Authority).

Education and Achievement

TAFE offers different levels of education — from certificate courses, to post-graduate diplomas. TAFE can provide you with a Bachelor’s Degree, Associate Degree, Diploma, and Advanced Diploma, depending on the course. There is, of course, a hierarchy, so you’ll find out that certain courses ask for prerequisites so you may have to take it step-by-step.

RTOs can offer specifically vocational education and training, and open the pathway to university education for those who are not eligible to enrol after high school. Studying at an RTO, you can get a diploma, vocational graduate diploma, and advanced diploma — or you can opt for courses that offer Vocational Graduate Certificate (I, II, III, IV).


Since TAFE is a public system managed by government, most TAFE institutions, still offer almost every training and enrol a high number of students. Although their campuses are smaller than universities, you’ll still find yourself in big surroundings.

RTOs, on the other side, tend to be smaller than TAFE as they are privately led, and seldom focus more than a handful of industries, as opposed to TAFE that offer a broad range of directions. Choosing to excel in only few industries, RTOs are very specialised in what they provide, fighting to gather the best team of educators in one place — their college. RTO courses are held in smaller groups, enabling more individual attention of educators, and providing an optimal learning environment.

Hands-on Experience

Both TAFE and RTO will provide you with practical experience during your chosen course. Aside from in-class practice, you will have a chance to work with experienced professionals and learn on the spot.

Since RTOs are private colleges, they can offer more exclusive practical opportunities than most TAFE. Some RTOs offer internships at 5+ star hotels and restaurants.



While the course prices depends on many factors, most of them being dependant on you personally — you will find that TAFE courses can be more expensive than RTO ones.

However, both RTO and TAFE are supported by government subsidies, and if you’re eligible for government funding you will find private RTOs can be the most affordable.

How to decide what’s right for you?

It is up to you to weigh all pros and cons and decide what’s best for you based on your personal preferences and career goals.

If you prefer a more personalised approach, work in smaller groups, and close attention from educators, then RTOs may be a better choice for you. But this is not where the evaluation  should end.

After you decide which industry you want to build your career in, explore both TAFE and RTO courses available to you. Find and mark all courses you found appealing, and embark on a comparison-shopping adventure. Go through courses curricula, compare topics, textbooks, teaching methods. Find out more about educators, and see where you’d fit best. Last, but not least, compare practical training and internship opportunities. If one institution offers an average hotel as an internship location, whereas the other one offers a luxury 5 star hotel, you should lean towards the latter, as it will enable you better employment after you’re done studying.

Before comparing prices, find out if the government offers funding for your chosen prices, and how much each would cost for you specifically.

Have a look at the Government websites to learn if you’re eligible for funding, and how much you education will cost.

Choosing your path after high-school is not an easy decision to make — but it is a decision that’s only yours to make. Think rationally, explore your options, do good research, and don’t be afraid — no path is a wrong path if it leads towards your goal.

If you need help further understanding VET and making up your mind, feel free to schedule a free chit-chat with us. We’ll help you the best we can – no strings attached!

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