Choosing a Level of Study

If you have been browsing the hundreds of courses on our site, you have likely noticed that there are a number of vocational qualification levels to choose from (there are six, in fact!), such as Certificate III, Certificate IV, Diploma etc. If you have, you’ve probably thought you either need to start with the lowest qualification and work your way up, or perhaps you want to try to fast-track your way to the top and begin with a Diploma.

In some cases, you’ll know which level you need to complete, based on the minimum requirements you need to apply for a particular position. In other cases, the path you need to take may not be so clear. If you’re not sure where to start, this article will explain which qualification level you should choose, depending on what you’re aiming for.

What are Certificates I and II?
Certificates I and II are entry level, post school qualifications and provide basic knowledge and vocational skills to a topic. They are often required for entry into higher level courses for those who cannot meet entry requirements through previous study in another course or alternative entry. They are also a perfect entry course for those who haven’t studied before or for a long time, as they give students a gentle introduction to study.

Those who graduate from lower level study such as this do generally have lower employment rate than those who go on to complete higher courses (although, higher than those who don’t complete a course at all), so it’s common for students of Certificate I and II to continue studying after completing these courses. Certificate II and III can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete, but are generally quite short.

What is Certificate III?
Certificate III offer an intermediate level of vocational skills and knowledge. By completing a Certificate III course, graduates become eligible for most apprenticeships and traineeships, so completing a Cert III is definitely worth it if you are currently unskilled and looking to greatly improve your employability. So from Certificate III, you can choose to pursue a traineeship or apprenticeship; or alternatively, you can find relatively stable and comfortable work or go onto further study.

It’s interesting to note that under 30% of Certificate III graduates do actually go on to pursue higher learning, which suggests that many end up finding meaningful work. In fields such as agriculture and process and resources engineering, the rate of higher learning re-engagement is lower (only 23% and 22% of students return to study respectively), whereas fields such as information technology (47%), creative arts (48%) and banking and finance (43%) are more likely to contain students who pursue a higher level certificate or diploma. A Certificate III can take from six months to two years to complete.

What is a Certificate IV?
Certificate IV provides a student with vocational skills and knowledge that are more advanced than lower level certificates. In fact, a Certificate IV is considered equal to six to 12 months of studying for a degree at university! Some (but not all) courses at this level require applicants to have completed lower level certificates, so it’s important to check the course information before enrolling. Certificate IV’s are generally well-regarded in the workforce, so if you graduate with this qualification, you’ll have a very broad range of options when seeking work. As with all the lower level certificates, a Certificate IV takes from six months to two years to complete, but you’ll be looking at the longer end of this for most courses.

What is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma?
Courses at Diploma level are designed primarily to prepare students for either a complex, technical career or for tertiary entry eligibility. A Diploma is the equivalent to one or two years of studying at the Bachelor Degree level and fulfills the requirements for many occupational fields. Beyond this, a Diploma is better regarded in the workforce, so will give graduates a significant edge over Certificate IV or lower. Most Diplomas require applicants to have completed lower level courses; although, some do not. Diplomas usually take two to three years to complete.

Unless you are completely new to study, it’s always a good idea to aim for the highest level of study that you meet requirements for, and even if you have no other qualifications to back you up, you may still be able to enter a higher level degree if you meet prior experience requirements. If you find that your prior experience and qualifications don’t get you as far as you had hoped, don’t forget that every step you take towards your goals is well worth it and will arm you with valuable skills and knowledge along the way!

The CFS Team
Helping You Achieve Success

Since 2008 We Have Helped Over 500,000 People Learn New Skills

Get a FREE Career Planner