Finding the right course for your encore career


Age is but a number. The archaic notion of hitting the end of the professional road in your later years is just that – archaic.

Older employees bring experience, reliability and gravitas to the table; advantages that many companies are recognising. This shift in understanding has affected society as a whole, and more facilities and resources are being made accessible to support mature-age workers.

A central theme is education and skill development. Some of the most recent research on the subject, the 2011 census conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that 41 per cent of higher education students were aged between 25 and 64. So how can you get back in the game?

Recognise your passion

Unlike younger workers who are still ‘finding their way’, people over 50 have solid life and work experience behind them. You know what you like and you understand your personal values. Whether it’s saving the world or designing a home, mature-age workers know that passion is a priority.

Peter Roberts, institute director of TAFE NSW – South Western Sydney Institute (SWSi) recommends taking TAFE courses to turn passion into prowess, “People like to discuss how TAFE SWSi can help them transform a passion or hobby into a brand new career.”

Recognising where your interests lie eases the stress of finding the right courses to advance your skill set, a task that most people find challenging in their earlier years of discovery.

What’s your learning style?

Everyone, regardless of their age, learns differently. Fortunately, for those returning to study, educational institutions provide great flexibility in choosing the right study method. Many courses now offer online learning for convenience, and TAFE providers also have diploma or certificate study options.

Victoria University in Melbourne, is one of various universities nationally, which offer ‘study pathways’. This option means that students can do apprenticeships, certificates, diplomas, degrees or postgraduate studies; entering from various points and exiting when they’ve achieved their goal. This pathway also connects courses between TAFE, higher education and postgraduate studies, allowing mature-aged students to adjust their learning schedule to suit their lifestyle and preferences.

Enrolling with a TAFE provider can be a useful way to expand your practical skills in a handful of professional areas. And if you’re considering TAFE, you’re not alone. According to Peter Roberts of SWSi: “Close to 15 per cent of [our] 52,000-strong student body are people aged 50 years and older.”

Knowledge is only a click away

Online learning, or e-learning, is becoming increasingly popular, with some big-name universities, such as the University of Melbourne, even offering free online subjects via partnerships with Coursera, a global pioneer in free online education.

With more than two decades under its belt, Open Universities Australia is a trusted and convenient e-learning hub that gives you access to courses from universities including: Swinburne, RMIT, Monash University, Macquarie University, Griffith University, Curtin University and the University of South Australia.

What to study?

According to the ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing, the most common occupations for older students included registered nurses, university lecturers and tutors, and sales assistants. At TAFE SWSi, most students above 50 are currently enrolled in courses covering a great variety of industry areas, including information technology and community services.

Whatever your ambitions for an encore career, it’s good to know that you’ve got everything you need to get back on track. And with your qualifications from the school of life, the possibilities are boundless.


ABS – Hitting the Books: Characteristics of Higher Education Students
TAFE NSW – South Western Sydney Institute
Victoria University
University of Melbourne
Open Universities Australia