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Australian Defence College

ADF Transition and Civil Recognition

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

What is RPL?

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Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is an assessment process used by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to evaluate a person’s skills, knowledge and experience gained through working and learning - be it work, life experience or other activities (such as volunteering) - and map them into a current nationally recognised unit of competency or full qualifications.

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) defines RPL thus: “Recognition of prior learning is an assessment process that involves assessment of an individual’s relevant prior learning (including formal, informal and non-formal learning) to determine the credit outcomes of an individual application for credit.”

While shorter than undertaking a full course, RPL is not a short cut to gaining a qualification. 

RPL is a way to formally recognise the knowledge and skills you have gained through service, community and life experiences as well as formal and informal study. It may provide national recognition of the skills you use in your job role, and validate the learning you have already acquired; it might simply reaffirm the skills you inherently know you hold.  The national units of competency and qualifications represent the skills standards for each industry sector. 

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What are the benefits?

The benefits of RPL through the Defence RTO (DRTO) include:

  • no cost
  • no gap training – if you meet the standards, and it’s on the DRTO scope, we’ll issue the units of competency or qualifications assessed
  • no wasted time studying something you already know
  • conducted in-house by professionals who understand Defence training and skills
  • you’ll receive formal recognition of your existing training and skills in the form of a statement of attainment or qualification
  • the units or qualifications that are issued are exactly the same as those awarded from study
If you want further RPL that the DRTO is unable to offer, Career Transition Assistance Scheme (CTAS) funding may be available.  Check your options before committing your finances.  Your nearest CTAS centre can be found at: .


Are DRTO qualifications nationally recognised?

Yes! The DRTO is a registered training organisation (RTO # 0442) and complies with all the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) standards. ASQA is the Australian government regulatory body for the Vocational Education & Training (VET) sector. Any qualifications issued by the DRTO are exactly the same as those issued by other educational institutions, such as TAFE and external RTOs.

How to apply for RPL

Email your request for RPL to the Defence RTO (DRTO) –  As with RPL through external providers, you will need to provide appropriate evidence to support your request.  DRTO staff are ready to assist at each step, should you need it. Tip: include your name & PMKeyS number in the subject line

Preparing for an RPL Assessment

RPL is not a short cut to gaining a qualification.  You must be able to demonstrate to an assessor that you have the skills and knowledge to meet the industry standard in order to have those skills formally recognised in the national Vocational Education & Training (VET) system. This means your RPL must be an appropriately thorough process that takes into account the content of all the units you want to be recognised for.

So, how to prepare…

  1. Check with your Service RTO that all VET outcomes (units of competency or qualifications) you’ve gained during service have been issued. A list of course completions is on your PMKeyS record. 
  2. Gather all your certificates from relevant training, such as school, TAFE, university, ADELE and RTOs.

Documents that may provide useful evidence in your RPL application include:

  • Copies of relevant qualifications and courses completed, including professional development
  • Copies of 2 recent annual performance appraisals
  • PMKeyS Service Record (or permission for DRTO staff to download this to verify training, etc)
  • Supervisor statements describing the specific duties / tasks you can do or have done
  • Third Party Reports, such as a
    • referee report, identifying specific skills your referee has observed you regularly perform on the job, on a more than one occasion
    • workplace report by a supervisor who will validate your knowledge and skills (see above).
  • Samples of workplace documents produced, minus details protected under the Privacy Act
    • minutes, briefs, reports (sensitive information removed), policy, guidance
    • risk assessment reports, eg WHS, logistics, projects
    • correspondence, including email
    • forms you’ve produced and used
    • budgets
    • memos
    • diary entries
    • brochures or flyers you have produced
  • Additional workplace evidence may include
    • feedback from colleagues
    • feedback from clients
    • projects you have worked on
    • procedures and policies
    • team meeting minutes that show you in a particular role and what you did
    • documented quality assurance procedures in place in your workplace to show workplace standards
    • additional appraisals which indicate your performance within specific projects, governance, compliance, WHS, and other topics relative to the qualification
    • any non-accredited certificates from other training, including unit level activities or professional development
  • Occupation/trade tickets you hold, eg forklift, crane, operating elevated work platforms, scaffolding, working in confined spaces
  • Current First Aid certificate / CPR certificate

Consider developing a current resume which reflects what you do - think about your work history and job roles.  If you have a variety of these things, you’ll be well prepared for RPL.

Where are my existing Defence accreditations held?

The Service RTOs hold electronic copies of most VET outcomes awarded to members over the course of their careers. The three Service RTOs are merging into the single Defence RTO; when the merger is complete, the Service RTO’s training, learning and development records will transition under the Defence RTO (DRTO).

How to get certificates issued, and from whom

Until the merger to the DRTO is completed, email a request to your Service RTO to issue all the proficiencies awarded to you:

Tip: include your name & PMKeyS number in the subject line

What can be issued?

Whether the Defence RTO issues to you depends on these things:

  • The accreditation you seek
  • The evidence you can provide relevant to the units of competency or qualification
  • The currency of the evidence you provide; older evidence must be supported with validation of current use within the past 1-2 years
  • The qualifications the RTO is authorised to issue.  Qualifications on the DRTO scope can be found at (DRTO: # 0442)

In order to issue a qualification the DRTO must ensure that evidence meets the following requirements:

  • Valid - the evidence you present must be relevant to the units and qualification sought
  • Sufficient - there must be enough evidence to demonstrate your skills and knowledge
  • Current - the evidence must show that you have the knowledge and skills now which are relevant to the units and qualifications you seek (see point 3, above)
  • Authentic - all work presented must be your own; if a group project is used you must show your contributions

Your evidence will be measured against each unit in the qualification you seek.

How to request an RPL from a civilian RTO and what it may cost

You can request RPL from a civilian RTO of your choosing by simply contacting the RTO and requesting it (noting that a civilian RTO cannot access your PMKeyS record). This can often be done online.  The RTO will require a CV or Resume from you, evidence of qualifications, units of competency and your current competence; they may also have an RPL Kit for you to complete.

The cost varies between RTOs but you will be provided with a quote up-front.  If costs aren’t provided in response to your enquiry, ASK immediately what they are. Typically, the average cost of RPL for a full qualification will vary from $900-$2000, and will depend on factors such as the qualification sought and whether you have existing units toward the qualification.  Ensure your quote includes the cost of issuing the final qualification post-assessment.

Tip: Be wary of incurring additional course costs (gap training) to satisfy an evidence shortfall in your RPL.

What you need to know - The Pitfalls

Don’t pay for something you can get for free.  You may be able to get formal recognition of your qualifications and experience gained in the ADF before you leave. Some units or qualifications are provided through training and will be issued by the DRTO (direct your query to your Service RTO), and further issuances may be available through RPL.

What to do?  Email the DRTO – to make an enquiry or request RPL.

Providers charging a fee for RPL.  Providers are only able to charge a fee for RPL if they are assessing you as part of a Vocational Education & Training (VET) outcome – units of competency or qualifications.

What to do?  RTOs can issue qualifications and units of competencies that they have ASQA approval to issue (ie “on scope”, see above).  The DRTO can RPL to qualifications and units of competency where you can provide evidence that you meet the assessment requirements for the competency sought and, of course, is on the DRTO scope.

Very short course durations…  Recent research has shown up to a quarter of training providers are conducting training that is too short to achieve the competencies of the qualification.  While there are no specific time frames for competencies, if the training is too short it may not cover the skills, knowledge and attributes needed to be truly competent. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

What to do?  Check with possible employers and industry groups about the qualifications they require in their industry before undertaking courses.  You may not need the course you are looking at, or you may need something else including a shorter course.

Taking a training provider’s word that the course they are offering is what you need … Regardless of their background, training providers are in business to make money and it is in their interest to sell their product – such as a course, RPL or gap training - to you.  Some training providers might, knowingly or unknowingly, offer to over-service your need.

What to do?  Do your own checks, or get a trusted friend to help you make sure you are getting what is right for you. Or seek guidance from us –

What if I’ve recently transitioned from service.  Contact us!  You may still be able to get formal recognition of your qualifications and experience gained in the ADF.

What to do?  Contact the DRTO to enquire what assistance may be available in your case –