Certificates, Diplomas & Bachelor’s Degrees – Which One Is Best for You?

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If you seek to become suitably qualified for a particular job, you’re invariably going to require an industry-recognized certificate, diploma or bachelor’s degree. How do you find out which one is right for you and what separates them from each other?


In Australia, certificates are divided into four levels, with certificate 1 representing an entry-level qualification, while 4 indicates the highest offering attained from the lengthiest period of study. There’s an exhaustive list of certificates available that are subsidised as well, allowing students to take on hospitality, childcare, business courses and more that are subsidised as well, allowing students to obtain qualifications with either partial or complete financial assistance.

Certificates 1 and 2

These certificates are typically the bare minimum qualifications that must be held in order to secure employment in a particular field. Unlike certificates 3 and beyond, these minor certificates can generally be undertaken without the need for existing skills or experience. These certificates are foundational courses and are perfect for those who are either just entering an industry or who haven’t undertaken academic subjects for some time. They provide a great opportunity for job seekers to quickly strengthen their existing skillsets and boost their chances of obtaining work.

Certificates 3 and 4

In order to gain access to certificate 3 and 4 courses, students will need to possess existing qualifications, such as a certificate 2, along with a predetermined amount of practical industry experience. For example, those wishing to obtain a certificate 3 in hospitality may need to have worked a minimum of 100 hours in a restaurant, café, bar or similar.


While not covering the same scope or depth of detail as a bachelor’s degree, diplomas are still highly sought after by many industries, opening up substantial work possibilities for graduates and providing students with an invaluable combination of both theory and practical work, making them much more capable of coping with the various demands of the jobs.

The prerequisites for diplomas are as varied as the diplomas themselves and can range from prior certificate qualifications, through to minimum grade requirements for relevant subjects such as mathematics, science and so on. Like certificates, diplomas are often referred to as short courses, as they don’t require several or more years of study to complete, like most bachelor’s degrees do.

Advanced Diplomas

An advanced diploma signifies a qualification that is more comprehensive in scope than a regular diploma. Advanced diplomas typically require 2 years of full-time study to acquire. Like an ordinary diploma degree, advanced diplomas combine theory with practical application, giving students the skills necessary to transition much more easily, once they’ve found employment in their chosen industry. Like certificates, diploma degrees often give students real industry experience, enabling them to work in a real business while completing their studies.

Bachelor’s Degrees

These are offered by colleges and universities and typically require three or more years of full-time study to obtain. Bachelor degree courses have much higher entry requirements compared to diplomas and certificates, depending on the course that student wishes to study, with the difficulty of entry based on the popularity of the course along with predetermined minimum entry grades. Once a bachelor’s degree has been obtained, a graduate student will often have the option to complete additional study in an effort to obtain a more advanced qualification such as a master’s degree or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

Which One is Best for You?

1) Time requirements

More advanced degrees demand more of your time. If you’re already juggling a job and/or other commitments, then it may not be possible at this point in time to study a diploma or bachelor’s degree.

2) Onsite or Online

Although the traditional method of studying on location at the college or university is often seen as the best way to earn a qualification, constant advances in technology have made online courses an increasingly attractive option.

Online learning offers a range of benefits over conventional classes, allowing students to:

  • Take the classes when it best suits them. They are able to schedule their study around their other commitments, rather than the other way around.
  • Learn through a variety of different media. People often have their own preferences about the ways that they enjoy to learn the most; by listening, by reading or in the case of videos and animated material, by watching. With high speed internet connections available in most parts of the world today, students are able to quickly access highly engaging study materials through a variety of different media.
  • Save a considerable amount on expenses. Tuition fees for online courses are always less expensive than learning at an institution and students can save a considerable amount of money on commuting costs as well.

3) Career uncertainties

An unfortunate reality is that what you perceive a particular job/career to be and what it actually is, can be two different things. Certificate courses are much cheaper than expensive bachelor’s degrees and can provide you with the necessary insight you need to help you determine whether or not you like the job/industry enough to commit to a BA or similar.

4) Job requirements

If you have your heart set on a particular career position, find out what qualifications are required and the different paths that can be taken. If it’s discovered that online course options are available for your desired qualification, then it may be an excellent opportunity for you to fast track your studies.

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