With the Morrison government extolling the virtue of vocational education and training (VET), the benefit of diplomas over degrees differs based on gender, according to a new report.
Published by the Grattan Institute, the report found that for students with a lower Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR), VET courses can get them employed faster and higher earnings over their career, but not if they are a woman.
The report compared VET courses to their university equivalent and demonstrated that if a male student with a low ATAR chooses a VET course similar to a university degree, for example engineering rather than science, their lifetime median earnings would be higher. Similarly, a Diploma in Commerce instead of a Bachelor of Commerce, would leave the students better off financially over the course of their lifetime.
For women, however, the data showed different results. Tertiary courses popular among women, such as education and nursing, have better career-long outcomes when women enrol in a Bachelor program.
In science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, women who study the tertiary equivalent of a VET diploma will earn more. For men, a Bachelor of Engineering will lead to less earnings over the course of their career than a Diploma of Engineering. The amount earned also differed for the same degrees between women and men. Men who studied a Bachelor of Engineering will have a median earning of $2.07 million over their lifetime, while women who studied the same course would have a meaning earning of $1.42 million over their career.
The report authors note that for students with lower ATARs, they are less likely to complete university, leading to lower employment outcomes, and that students with higher ATARs will be more likely to attain higher paying jobs after graduating university.