What’s the difference between a certificate, diploma and a Bachelor degree?

Smiling young woman graduates from degree

Higher education is a great way to change direction or further your career development, but it can be difficult to decide which is the right option for you. When it comes to higher education, you have a number of options. 

From Certificates and Diplomas to Bachelor Degrees, it can feel a little overwhelming. If you’re wondering what’s the difference between a certificate and a diploma or the difference between a diploma and a Bachelor degree, we’re here to break it down for you. 

What is a Certificate?

Certificates are a great option if you need a basic introduction to a particular field, are new to studying, or haven’t studied in a long time. Certificates are available at four different levels, depending on what depth of study you are considering. 

A certificate I is an entry-level of study and is the most basic level. You can undertake certificates in a range of fields, including business and construction.

Certificate IV, on the other hand, is more suited for those looking to advance their career or build on prior skills and is the most advanced certificate. Depending on the certificate level, there may be some entry requirements before you can advance to the next certificate level. When looking into a field of study you’re interested in, make sure to check these requirements and complete all of the necessary steps before moving on to the next.

If you’re interested in upskilling with a certificate I, II, III or IV, you can do so through TAFE or some online learning universities or on-campus universities. As a more short-term study option that typically takes between 6 months to 1.5 years to complete, a certificate can be a good opportunity to ‘try before you buy’. If you are passionate about your chosen field of study, it’s a good indicator this could be the career path for you.

What is a Diploma?

Diplomas are available in two options; a standard diploma and an advanced diploma. A Diploma is a level of study that provides you with a more in-depth level of understanding to upgrade your skills and enhance your career.  They are designed to provide you with the necessary skills to excel in professional, technical or creative fields. You can complete a diploma in a range of fields including beauty, early childhood and leadership and management, just to name a few.

An advanced diploma provides you with industry-ready skills that enable you to work as a paraprofessional; an individual who can work in the field but isn’t yet licensed or fully qualified. An advanced diploma is more suitable for those looking to fast-track their career to more senior roles.

TAFE and some online and on-campus universities offer diplomas and advanced diplomas and depending on which you choose to study, you can normally complete a diploma between six months to three years.

What is a Bachelor Degree?

A Bachelor’s degree allows you to specialise in one or more areas in which you will work on increasing your knowledge and expertise. Undertaking a Bachelor’s degree will provide you with a wide range of knowledge and ultimately lay the foundation for achieving a high-level, professional career.

You can undertake an Associate degree or Bachelor degree, depending on your prior learning. An Associate degree is a fast-tracked qualification, often used as a ‘bridging course’ into studying a Bachelor degree. For example, if you don’t achieve the entry requirements necessary for a Bachelor degree, you can first undertake an Associate degree and transition down the track.

Which qualification is right for you?

The best option for you will depend on your professional goals and how much time you have to dedicate to study each week. The higher the level of study, the more hours you will be required to put in.

Now you know the difference between a certificate and a diploma and the difference between a diploma and a Bachelor degree, you’ll be able to make an informed decision based on your own personal goals.

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