Need to follow an alternative pathway?

Last week we looked at why you might need to follow a career pathway that isn’t necessarily straightforward. To recap, here are some of the reasons why you might need this option:
  • You didn’t get the results you needed
  • You missed a prerequisite subject (or failed it)
  • You need to move a long way to follow your dream and you’re not ready for that yet
  • You’ve had enough of study for now and want a break before uni
And whether you’re concerned your ATAR / OP won’t get you into your preferred Uni Course, or you don’t even want to go to Uni, there are options out there to suit you.

Alternative ways into Uni

Universities want you to attend their institution (they’re a business at the end of the day, and more students means more income). So if you’ve chosen a course you really like – or a uni you really want to go – check their website for alternative pathways that they offer. For example, Macquarie University offer 8 different entry pathways. Yes you read that right, EIGHT. Here’s a quick run-down of what they are and how they work:
  • Next Step Pathway – successfully complete a series of units and guarantee entry into one of 18 degrees on offer.
  • Macquarie University International College – Successfully complete one of 4 specially designed diplomas (also called foundation courses), and you’re eligible for entry into the second year of a degree – so you won’t even lose time.
  • Internal TransferEnrol on a degree with a lower ATAR requirement than your preference that you may have missed out on. Within 6 months transfer to your preferred degree.
  • Transfer from another University – complete a minimum of 12 months on another tertiary course and apply through UAC to your preferred Macquarie course.
  • Special Tertiary Admissions Test – You’ll have to successfully complete a series of competency and critical thinking tests.
  • TAFE & Private CollegeCompleted TAFE and College qualifications as a stepping stone to a Macquarie Uni degree, you can apply direct for some courses and through UAC for others.
  • Open Universities (OUA) – Apply to do an online course with Macquarie, you can do this for the duration of your studies or you can apply via UAC to study on campus if you complete 4 units within four 13-week sessions.
  • Indigenous Students – Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students can apply for consideration based on merit and an on-campus assessment day.
Most unis offer opportunities like these, and you could be studying towards your preferred degree in no time at all. You’ll have to decide about which pathway to take and do some hard work, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

I don’t want to go to Uni – what now?

Alternative Career pathways aren’t just limited to University. You could apply for a job straight out of school, get work experience and work your way up the career ladder. It’s not an easy route by any means, but if it’s an option for the career of your choice, you’ll start earning straight away and be pursuing the job you wanted. If you want to join the Police or the Fire Service then tertiary education isn’t a requirement. You can apply directly through relevant state services.  As long as you meet all the requirements and pass the admissions tests, you could be embarking on a career within months of leaving school. Check out the service you’re interested in, entry requirements can differ between states. If you’re an Australian who’s completed Year 10 you may be eligible to join the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The training, qualifications and work experience you can access through the ADF is phenomenal. It’s definitely worth seeing if the career you want is an option through them. You’ll have to commit for a period of time, but not forever if turns out to be something you don’t love. Meanwhile you’ll get plenty of support, opportunities and learn lots.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

There are literally thousands of Diplomas and Certificate qualifications available for courses delivering work-place specific knowledge and skills across lots of careers and industries. You can study anything from trades, office work, management, retail, hospitality, to tourism, and technology. You can even study in-class or online through TAFE or RTOs (Registered Training Organisations). Again, there are thousands of options for institutions as well as courses. Narrow down your options by deciding an area you want to study. Search for courses matching your requirements and then by location or on-line options. It’s always worth checking if you’re eligible for any grants or additional funding that can cover some or all of the costs. Search for courses or institutions here as a great starting point.


Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions are government owned providers of VET courses. They’re found throughout Australia and offer countless study options. If you’ve completed Year 10 at school you can study at TAFE. The qualifications (see VET section) are just as valid and transferrable as a university degree (and can be a pathway into uni if that’s your end goal), and potential employers view TAFE qualifications as favourably as degrees in many cases. TAFE institutions offer courses on various subject areas, including:
  • Agriculture
  • Arts and Design
  • Building and Furnishing
  • Business and Marketing
  • Community and Health
  • Education and Languages
  • Engineering and Transport
  • Food and Beverage
  • Hair and Beauty
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information Technology
So you’ll be able to find a course that floats your boat. You can search through some of the courses here.

Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Cadetships

A great way to kick off a career. There’re over 250,000 apprentices and trainees in training around Australia, across lots of different industries. Open to everyone with very few barriers, employers create a job through the Apprenticeship scheme, so you’re employed directly by them (full or part-time permanent jobs) and start earning while you train. Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you’ll have a nationally recognised qualification and work experience. With any luck you’ll also have the option of walking into a job with the company you’ve trained with. Interested in an apprenticeship? Start here. Cadetships are similar to apprenticeships, employers offer industry specific combined vocational training and work experience. There are cadetships available within Australian Government Departments and lots of private companies from Jetstar through to the Guide Dogs Association and everything in between. Bear in mind that many cadetships have higher entry requirements and can be competitive. There’s tonnes more information about different pathways on this Government site, if you’d like to read more click this link.

It’s your choice

Finding out more about all the alternative pathways into a career that you want can open lots of doors. You might find a pathway perfect for you that you hadn’t previously considered. If you’re indecisive and still aren’t sure what you’d like to do, then finding out what the alternative options are available could help you decide which step to take. It could also inspire you to explore careers you’d never really considered before. Your future is entirely in your hands.

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