Education and training

by | Feb 14, 2024 | 0 comments

As a single mum, investing in yourself is an important steps for both your own and your children’s financial security – and it needs as much care as any other investment. Before you commit to any course, qualification, or training, it’s worth being very clear about what you are studying and why.

It’s also important to consider where you will be studying. Most private and government education and training institutions in Australia are reputable. There have however been instances of training organisations that have been found to be illegitimate, not compliant with best practice, and upselling or overpromising on course provision.

Questions to explore could include:

  • Will completing this course give me better employment options, a better wage, and greater opportunities for promotion or progression?
  • Is the course subsidised or am I going to be able to manage a sizable study debt?
  • Can I manage the required student placement or internship? (These vary between weeks and months and are often unpaid, so check the detail.)
  • Is this course and the university, college or other business running it legitimate, with good student outcome reports?

As a single mum with dependants, you may feel more confident if you first do a cost/ benefit analysis, talk to a careers advisor, and develop a time management plan based on likely study commitments, your children’s school and care arrangements, and any other commitments.

Accredited and non-accredited training

It’s crucial to understand the difference been accredited and non-accredited training.

Accredited training is nationally recognised and taught up to a quality-assured standard approved by the Australian Skills Quality Authority. Non-accredited courses aren’t regulated, which means quality and consistency can vary. They can however still provide valuable skills, are often great for networking and enhancing existing skills, and are valued as industry specific.

Accredited training courses count as recognised qualifications on your CV. Non-accredited courses can also go on your resume, and will boost employability but may not receive the same recognition as an accredited course.

Accredited courses may be eligible for government funding, non-accredited may require you to pay.

Learn Local programs are Victorian-based and are both accredited and non-accredited. They recognise that adults experience challenges in the course of their lives and may need a starting point to build fundamental skills and confidence prior to re-entering the workforce.

Learn Local courses are short, offered at low or no cost to eligible adult Victorians. There are a wide range of courses including digital and computer skills, reading and writing, maths, study skills, employability skills, and English as well as preparation for various industries such as aged care, food processing, health services, hospitality, construction, and warehousing and distribution. Micro-credentials are one of the fastest growing post-secondary course types in the market.

Micro-credentials are short certification courses that allow you to learn new professional skills very quickly, at a TAFE or university level. They’re an alternative learning option for those who don’t have the time or money to enrol in a longer qualification. They provide a certificate of completion that you can be added to a resume and are often outcome-based, driven by industry needs and readily accessible to learners. Check out the Micro-credentials National Framework.

Free online certified learning

There are dozens of free online learning platforms worldwide that can help you learn a second language, arts, psychology or science subject, all without spending a cent. Click here to find out more about the best sites to access.

Accessing university with no ATAR or limited qualifications

If you left school many years ago or did not finish Year 12, there are a few ways you can enter the university system. This website will take you through these strategies and more.

Start with single subjects: Open Universities Australia has an open-door policy which allows people to enrol in single subjects offered by leading universities, regardless of ATAR results.

Enrol in an undergraduate certificate: Another way to get into a degree without an ATAR is to enrol in an undergraduate certificate first.

Use your work and life experience: If you didn’t finish Year 12, but you have spent years building up your skills in the workforce, you may be able to access the work and life experience pathway. Evidence of relevant work experience and what you have learned in your single parenting journey may enable you to bypass entry requirements. Universities have varying requirements, so you may need to do more research to find one that allows this type of admission into an undergraduate course.

Entry via a TAFE Diploma or Associate Diploma: Moving up or sideways through TAFE by getting a diploma or associate diploma first (particularly if its FREE TAFE) can be a great entry point. Many Australian universities now have dual-sector status, which means that they offer both VET and higher education courses. Depending on your learning style, time availability, and aspirations, re-entering work with an TAFE level certificate or diploma may be a good option.

Understanding VET (Vocational Education and Training) and TAFE (Training and Further Education)

“Australia’s VET sector… produces highly skilled graduates with remuneration and employment outcomes comparable to – and sometimes surpassing – those of university graduates.”

Nicholas Wyman CEO of Skilling Australia Foundation.

The Australian government has partnered with all States and Territories to ensure Fee-Free TAFE is available for:

  • First Nations Australians
  • Young people (17-24)
  • People who are out of work or receiving income support payments
  • Unpaid carers
  • Women facing economic insecurity
  • Women undertaking study in non-traditional fields
  • People with disability
  • Certain categories of visa holders

Find out more here.

Even with a previous degree, diploma or masters, you may be eligible for free Tafe at any certificate level to rebuild a new career choice.

Both VET (Vocational Education and Training) providers and universities offer formal and recognised qualifications, but VET is highly practical and often face-to -face, and require six months to two years to complete. Vocational courses are generally far less expensive and offer more targeted learning and are in the classroom. Check these articles for more about choosing a VET pathway or a higher education or university degree:



For those interested in sectors most willing to embrace new employees, the demand in Australia for care sector workers is currently unprecedented. Upskilling or reskilling for roles as a community or mental health worker, nurse, childhood educator, teacher, allied health professional, counsellor or support worker may capitalise on your mothering experience, personal values, and has potential in some cases for flexible hours.

Additional links to explore include:

The Victorian governments free entry to nursing and midwifery – in effect until 2025

Free TAFE for Victorians including for those who already have a diploma or degree.

Study loans, supports and choices Australia wide

About university and the higher education sector

Also known as tertiary education or higher education, universities offer the higher levels of the Australian Qualifications Framework including diplomas, advanced diplomas, associate degrees, bachelor degrees (including honours), graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, masters degrees, doctoral degrees (PhD), and higher doctoral degrees. Many Australian universities now have TAFE departments that offer Vocational Education and Training (VET). These dual-sector universities provide an excellent option for students looking to work their way up the learning ladder

Costs and fees

Before studying, look carefully at the delivery model of your chosen course or degree (e.g. online or in class, placement requirements) and the fee structure. The costs of degrees differ with course length and the university you attend. A single unit (and there may be 108 in a degree) can cost between $800 and $3000, with medicine and law considerably more expensive.

Take note if you are studying under a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) or a Full Fee-Paying place (FFP): A Commonwealth supported place (CSP) means the government pays part of your fees. This part is a subsidy, not a loan, and you don’t have to pay it back. This subsidy does not cover the entire cost of your study, and there will be a student contribution.

Full fee HELP loans may be required to pay a full fee-paying qualification. That is, the entire cost is borne by the student, rather than just a partial contribution. This is the case for international students and most students studying at a private institution or at postgraduate level, where a full-fee place is the only option. The cost of a university degree can be reduced if you receive a scholarship. Learn more about university scholarships in Australia.

Types of Delivery

In person: Your unit or classes will be delivered on the campus you have enrolled in. The timetable will display “On Campus” and provide the room where the classes will be held, and you will physically attend those classes.

Online real time: Your unit or classes will be delivered online using Zoom. The timetable will display “Online Real Time (ZOOM)” and you will attend scheduled classes remotely through Zoom classrooms.

Online self-paced: You will participate in learning activities online over that period, but not at a set time. You will be able to conduct these activities at a time that suits you, providing those activities are completed by the required time. Your timetable will display “Online Self-Paced”.

Hybrid: Part of your unit will be delivered in person on the campus you have enrolled in, with the remainder delivered in an online mode. The timetable will state which classes or activities in the unit will be delivered on campus and which classes or activities will be online, in either real-time or self-paced mode. The Good Universities Guide can be a helpful resource for some general advice and the following websites may have a bit of food for thought as a single mum:

Returning to university as a single mum

Tips for studying as a single mum

Centrelink Education Supplement for single mums

Universal Student Identification Number

Once you are enrolled to study, you need to make sure you have a USI. A USI is your individual education number for life. It gives you an online record of all your vocational education and training (VET) undertaken in Australia. If you’re at university, TAFE or doing other nationally recognised training, you need a USI. Without one, you can’t get your qualification or statement of attainment. You also can’t get Commonwealth financial assistance.

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