Blogs (Career Inspiration Articles)

How long does a course take?

There are many different ways of getting a qualification at TAFE NSW. Let's have a quick look at the basics.

How long does a course take?

Is the hour-glass half full or half empty?

Flexible education and training with TAFE NSW means it’s all about you and your needs. So the course duration can also depend on how much time you have to study.

First, please remember

  • Your experience: Your work and life experience can give you credit towards your qualification, saving you time and money.
  • Online: If you’re doing the course online with TAFE Digital the timeframe is even more flexible – sometimes very quick; sometimes slow and steady.
  • Work-based training: Apprenticeships and traineeships take longer because you are combining work with your education.


Here is a (rough) guide to how long your qualification might take to achieve. Remember, qualifications are often built into each other, so if you move from one to a higher one, you don't 'start over' again.

Certificate I (AQF Level 1)

From a few weeks to six months. A Certificate I will give you general skills to start work, community involvement or the tools to learn more, opening doors to your future.


Certificate II (AQF Level 2)

From a few months to a year. With a Certificate II, you’ll gain knowledge and skills for work in a defined context and/or further learning.

Traineeships (which usually take from one to two years) are often at a Certificate II level, so that gives you an idea that the training can be focused and tailored to real skills in a real career area.             

Certificate III (AQF Level 3)

From six months to a year (or three to four years typically if you’re doing an apprenticeship). This qualification level includes theory and hand-on skills for careers and/or provides pathways to advanced-study level.

Certificate IV (AQF Level 4)

From six months to two years will allow you enough time to finish a Certificate IV. The Certificate IV will give you specialised career and further-study skills.

Diploma (AQF Level 5)

One to two years for a Diploma which will give you advanced skills and in-depth knowledge for para-professional work. Diplomas can provide a pathway to higher qualifications including degrees. You can also plug into the technology of the future with flexible learning tools of TAFE Digital

Advanced Diploma (AQF Level 6)

18 months to three years will lead towards an Advanced Diploma qualification, and the sophisticated skills and in-depth knowledge needed for senior roles. Advanced Diplomas can be used as a pathway to higher education or to gain a credit transfer into to a degree at TAFE NSW or another higher education provider.

Associate Degree (AQF Level 6)

You will study up to two years usually to gain an Associate Degree, and you will gain underpinning technical and theoretical knowledge to undertake paraprofessional work and/or more study.

Bachelor Degree (AQF Level 7)

From three to four years to complete. TAFE NSW Degree graduates will have hands-on, industry-tailored knowledge and skills for professional work and/or further learning.           

Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate (AQF Level 8)

Usually from six months to a year to gain a Graduate Diploma or Certificate. You’ll gain advanced knowledge and skills for professional/highly skilled work and/or further learning.

TAFE NSW offers more than 1,200 courses, including Degrees. All nationally recognised qualifications are based on the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) and meet national standards in education and training. There are also hundreds of short courses – many nationally recognised, all respected and valued by employers.

Explore courses