Types of qualifications

Qualifications are awarded when you successfully complete a course. This page outlines the purpose of courses at each qualification level and the skills involved.

Training qualifications

Vocational or work-related qualifications focus on learning practical skills for work. The level at which you enter your career may depend on the qualification you gain when you finish your course.

The time it takes to complete your qualification will depend on your prior level of skills and knowledge, whether you’re studying full time, part time or externally as well as what you are studying.

It also depends on factors related to the industry or work area you are studying in. For example, a diploma may take two years of full-time study and a Certificate III may take less. A Certificate III trade apprenticeship, which is a combination of work and training, generally takes about four years to complete.

Short courses

Short courses provide very specific training, and include courses which help you get a licence to perform particular work within an occupation, or to have certain responsibilities within a workplace. For example, there are courses to train people in first aid, or in the safe use of scaffolding on a building site. Other courses include introductory or basic learning in language and literacy.

These courses are nationally recognised but they do not lead to a qualification with a level such as Certificate I or II – instead, you will receive a statement of attainment listing the skills (or competencies) you have successfully completed.

Certificate I

Includes studies at a foundation level and may also be the minimum qualification for entry level work in a few industries. Study at this qualification level also includes pre-apprenticeship training.

Certificate II

Courses at this level provide operational knowledge in skill areas where you can apply solutions to problems, and may also be the minimum qualification for entry level work in some industries. Some certificates at this level can be completed as a part of a traineeship which involves a mix of on- and off-the-job training.

Certificate III

Courses at this level provide additional theoretical knowledge and encourage you to develop higher level skills for solving a variety of problems. Some certificates at this level can be completed as a part of a traineeship or an apprenticeship which involve a mix of on- and off-the-job training. This qualification is the minimum qualification level for entry into several industries.

Certificate IV

Study at this level will enable you to develop a broad knowledge base, teaching you to analyse and evaluate information and to apply the knowledge and skills to a wide variety of contexts. Certificates at this level prepare you to work in areas which may require complex skills.


Qualifications at this level give you theoretical knowledge, technical and creative skills. Study at this level will also enable you to develop skills in applying judgement, planning and analysis across a broad range of technical and management situations.

Diploma courses are designed to provide you with the skills necessary for supervisory positions, running a small business, working closely with experienced professionals, or operating at a high level in a technical capacity.

Advanced Diploma

Study at this level will develop your ability to apply principles and techniques in a wide range of contexts. Advanced Diploma courses provide training for supervisory and middle management positions, or positions operating at a high level of expertise within a particular skill area.

Vocational Graduate Certificate and Vocational Graduate Diploma

Vocational Graduate Certificates and Vocational Graduate Diplomas are generally designed for specific vocational purposes – either the broadening of skills and knowledge already gained in an undergraduate program, or vocational skills and knowledge in a new professional area.

With appropriate work experience, these qualifications will allow you to pursue a range of career opportunities within management.

Higher Education qualifications

Higher education gives you a professional qualification with a theoretical focus. You can choose from courses delivered at universities, some TAFE institutes and private training providers.

Generally, courses at this level include undergraduate degrees, postgraduate degrees and doctorates.

You can complete a university course at a public university or a private higher education provider. There are ten universities operating in Victoria - eight Victorian public universities, two campuses of the Australian Catholic University and University of Divinity.

The careers and course information centres at any university can offer you more advice on studying at university.

Recognition of skills you have already

Many institutions recognise skills you have gained through life, work experience and/or former study. These may count towards a qualification and can mean getting the qualification you want without having to study what you already know.