It’s official. I’ve completed my Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing. For the second time, I’m finally done studying!
With that in mind, I thought it a prudent time to write a post on the differences between my two tertiary education experiences.
When I started university, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I applied to do a Bachelor of Arts and later moved into a Bachelor of Media and Communications (for a while I thought maybe I’d want to be a script doctor – I should’ve taken a more realistic business writing approach).
By the time I was finished, I ended up getting a job in a call centre. Not exactly the start to my career that I had envisioned. The ratio of university graduates to available jobs is ridiculous, especially in Adelaide. The age-old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” certainly rings true when it comes to the South Australian workforce. Everyone I know in Adelaide who now has a job in their chosen field of study has had to leave the state to attain it (myself included).
There are plenty of reasons as to why this is (the drop in the required TER score for a lot of courses, the uncapping of spaces, etc.) but I’m not here to write about the political side of things. There are people better equipped than me to share their views in that space. Instead, I simply want to advocate for TAFE. Specifically, the online learning experience. Perhaps even the mature-age learning experience, and why it was better for me than my university degree.
My Cert. IV cost roughly 12% of my university degree.
Firstly, when I started my Cert. IV I was 25. Meaning, I was old enough to know what I wanted from the course, rather than simply doing it because it’s what was expected of me. I began networking, creating a portfolio (admittedly, as part of the subject matter) and devising a plan to enter the industry before finishing.
Now I know a lot of uni students do this as well, particularly those with degrees that require a placement. Humanities topics such as English, Media Studies, History, etc., generally don’t require that, though. I found while studying there were limited resources and information that helped students in these courses understand their career pathway. Or maybe they were there, just not well advertised. In any case, my point remains: at 25 I was determined to figure it out on my own.
Secondly, I work better alone at my own pace. I’m actually a huge people person and can get pretty lonely if I don’t have some sort of social interaction during the day, but when it comes to working I need to either be secluded or in an environment that encourages getting shit done – otherwise say goodbye to my productivity. So with my Cert. IV I knew I had eighteen months to complete the course and therefore planned everything accordingly. There were definitely periods where I would slack off, and quite a large break in the middle where I moved interstate, but I knew when everything was due and knew I could get it done. Perhaps this wouldn’t work for everyone, and returning for a moment to my age, had I been eighteen it probably wouldn’t have worked for me either.
University is not the be-all and end-all of your future.
Thirdly, the trainers were approachable. They worked in the industry. They weren’t PhD students who had little to no experience in the field and could often be quite rude when explaining things in tutorials, replying to emails or marking assignments. I must apologise quickly to one of my friends who is currently working on their PhD – I know it’s not all of them. Although my experience has certainly left me feeling as though it is the majority. One of my PhD tutors actually wrote sarcastic comments on my essay when he marked it. Thanks for the vote of confidence there, mate.
Admittedly, I did have some exceptional tutors and lecturers at uni, one of whom I approached while still working in the call centre for advice as to what I should try and do moving forward. Their priorities were primarily focused upon academia, however, and her suggestion was, “Do your masters.” Then what? I didn’t want to be a full-time student forever.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly (given the way things are heading), it was a fraction of the price. My Cert. IV cost roughly 12% of my university degree. Yes, I had to pay for it outright, but at least it’s not a looming debt hanging over my head. With the amount of university courses switching to online learning, cost is definitely a factor that needs to be seriously considered.
So if you’re older and you’re thinking about going back to study – it’s not too late. It might even be better than you remember. If you’re just finishing school and want to go to university, that’s great! I certainly don’t regret my degree, especially considering I had an amazing study abroad experience as a student at Keele University. But if you do have doubts, maybe consider alternative methods of tertiary education. University is not the be-all and end-all of your future.