What is the difference between RTOs and TAFE?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

If you have been researching early childhood education Certificates and Diplomas, you have probably noticed that they are delivered by a number of Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions. A VET institution could be an RTO (Registered Training Organisation) or a TAFE.

It should be noted that while both TAFE and RTOs are providers of Vocational Education and Training, TAFE is in fact a type of RTO. VET providers offer a range of qualifications across many sectors, early childhood education included. When comparing child care course providers, it is important to understand the differences to ensure you are choosing the provider that best meets your study needs.

Private RTOs vs TAFE

Practical skills through Vocational Education and Training

VET is a popular way to train or upskill thanks to the practical nature of VET courses and their focus on practical learning outcomes. 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 estimates the 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 at 46.1%. Studying through VET can also provide pathways to higher studies, such as university.

Understanding what a registered training organisation is

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

Get to know privately-run RTOs

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. At Practical Outcomes we specialise in early childhood education, whereas other privately-run RTOs might offer courses in aged care, hospitality, building or business. This specialisation means 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.

Learn more about TAFE

Does Technical and Further Education sound familiar? Probably not — it is usually known by its acronym: TAFE. TAFES are government-run RTOs. That is, they 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, certificate and diploma courses delivered at TAFEs are nationally accredited and focus on practical training.

TAFE courses are an option for learners looking for a broad certification, though class sizes tend to be larger.  They also tend to specialise in classroom delivery rather than online.

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 across the entire VET sector. Assess every VET training provider individually, keeping in mind what it is that you want from your training provider. Let’s examine some of the differences you might come across:

Education and university 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, Practical Outcomes provides a university pathway that allows our 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).

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, Registered Training Organisations 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, Registered Training Organisations can often provide support for students to access a broader range of practical placement opportunities.

Practical Outcomes as a VET provider

Ultimately, choosing a VET provider should come down to the quality of the training and programs provided, as well as the support you’ll get along the way.

Practical Outcomes RTO delivers high-quality, specialised training in early childhood education and care. We have been training for more than 15 years and are committed to educating students to thrive in early childhood education careers.

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 career-ready.

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.

Need further guidance on choosing the right provider to achieve your early childhood education career goals? Get in touch.


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