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Do I need a certificate, a diploma or bachelor degree?

It can be difficult understanding what different qualifications mean and which one is right for you

Do I need a certificate, a diploma or bachelor degree?

The qualifications hierarchy

Employers and educational institutions usually only recognise qualifications that fall within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). That framework can be divided into three basic categories: certificate, diploma and degree. 


Certificates range from I to IV (and for some reason are written in Roman numerals).

  • Certificates I to II provide basic vocational skills and knowledge that can launch your career.
  • Certificates III to IV provide more advanced skills and knowledge for a career.
  • Certificate IV is often considered the equivalent of six to 12 months of degree study.

It's not always necessary to complete a lower-level certificate to gain entry to a higher one. Apprenticeships - like Hairdressing - are usually Certificate III level. 



Courses at Diploma and Advanced Diploma level generally take two to three years to complete. They will prepare you for careers that require a broad range of complex technical skills and in-depth knowledge. You study a Diploma so you can guide tourists for instance. These qualifications are generally considered 'equivalent' to one or two years of degree study.


Bachelor Degree

The undergraduate bachelor degree is the 'base' university-level qualification. It takes three to four years to complete and signifies broad, coherent knowledge and the ability to do 'professional' work. TAFE NSW Degrees are focused on career outcomes, and are taught in small and supportive classes.

Historically, TAFE NSW offered certificate and diploma courses; universities offered bachelor degrees. TAFE NSW now offers also offers degrees focused on real career skills and experience.

Qualifications from TAFE NSW are recognised by universities, meaning that if you ever decide to do a degree (either at TAFE NSW or uni) you may be able to transfer credit for certificate or diploma qualifications you've already gained.


What about 'short courses'?

Good question. Short courses are sometime Statements of Attainment, which are courses up out of units from 'parent' courses which are usually certificates and diplomas. So that means they are recognised throughout Australia. Other TAFE NSW short courses are more 'informal', but all our courses have the TAFE NSW mark of quality which can't be beaten.


What's the deal with a Micro-credential?

Small but good, micro-credentials are courses made up out of smaller ‘parts’ of TAFE NSW degrees. Micro-credentials allow you to be very competitive in the workforce without committing to a full degree. Your micro-credential will be employer-focused and based around certain career skills you need. They are recorded and can be used on your CV. But they can also provide you with credit towards the full degree if you decide to study later on.

Which course is right for you?

Whatever direction you decide to take, we can help you get there and show you all about qualifications

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