There are 10 levels of qualifications that students can earn in Australia after completing their school education. The levels, and the specific educational standards for each qualification are specified in, and frequently referred to as the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF).
Levels of Qualifications
There are 10 levels of AQF. Level 1 is the very first level of tertiary education qualifications. Level 10 is the highest level of AQF, matched to the highest level of education a student can achieve: a Doctorate degree.
The 10 AQF levels and the type of institutions they can be obtained at are outlined in Table 4.
Types of Qualifications
The various different qualifications that a student can achieve in Australia can be grouped into certificates, diplomas, and degrees.
Certificates courses are offered in schools and VETs. Ranging from six months to two years in duration, these courses provide introductory skills and training, delivering industry-specific knowledge and skills in communication, literacy and numeracy, and teamwork.
There are four distinct certificates: Certificate I, II, III, and/or IV, which a student can earn. Each certificate marks the specific level of occupational skills and competencies gained through these courses. Certificate I is the lowest level of VET training, meeting the Level 1 criteria of AQF, while Certificate IV satisfies the Level 4 requirements.
Diplomas can be earned in VETs and in some HIEs. Diplomas fall into three sub-categories:
- Diploma (or Regular Diploma) Courses: Prepare students for industry, enterprise and paraprofessional careers. Diplomas typically require 18 months to two years of full-time study.
- Advanced Diploma Courses: Provide a high level of practical skills for advanced skilled or paraprofessional work in areas such as accounting, building design, and engineering. Students can complete some advanced diploma courses at university level. Advanced diplomas vary in length from two to three years of full-time study.
- Graduate Certificate/Diploma Courses: Provide high-level employment-related skills and knowledge. The graduate certificate usually requires six months to a year of full-time study, and the graduate diploma usually requires one to two years of full-time study.
Degrees are typically granted by HEIs after the completion of an academic course, and include:
- Bachelor Degrees: Typically earned after three years of full time study. Students can also for an Associate Bachelor, a two-year degree, or get specialized Honours Bachelor degrees after four years of full-time study. The Bachelor degrees satisfy level six (associate), seven (Bachelor) and 8 (Honours) of AQF.
- Master Degrees (AQF Level 9): Available after a Bachelor degree for further specialization in chosen subject. A Master degree typically requires one to two years of full-time study. They could be course-based, such as an MBA or research/thesis-based.
- Doctorate or PhD (AQF Level 10): Courses are typically research-based and often require students to have found a research supervisor at the university they are applying to. An Honours Bachelor or a Master degree is a prerequisite for admission into a Doctorate course.