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The Difference between Certificates, Diplomas & Degrees

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The time has finally come to consider your future study options! Are you deciding on what to study after your matric finals, or equivalent? If you’re recently matriculated you may be wondering if you should embark on a three-year bachelor’s degree or perhaps complete a shorter qualification, like a higher certificate course, so that you can join the job market a little quicker? MANCOSA settles all your questions about the differences between higher education and tertiary studies.

The common question that is often asked by prospective students is“what are the key differences between pursuing a Higher Certificate, a Diploma or a Degree career path?”

In South Africa, these are all NQF recognised and each qualification will almost always enhance your CV and skill set in some way. However, each one aids your career path in a different way. Knowing the differences (and application) for each type of course can go a long way in helping you get onto the right path for your career. So, what does it really mean to obtain a Certificate, Diploma, or Degree?

What are Higher Certificates?

A Higher Certificate course, like the Higher Certificate in Human Resource Management, typically takes one year to complete and can be pursued with minimal entry requirements, usually matric exemption or equivalent. Higher certificates put a lot of focus into providing a skills-based qualification that places emphasis on the application of a very specific skill set. Higher certificate courses are typically industry-orientated and graduates can expect to receive an introduction into practical techniques that are prerequisites for pursuing a job in a very specific field.

What are Diplomas?

An Advanced Diploma or a Postgraduate Diploma is a type of qualification that is similar to a degree but often with more of a focus on career-centric or vocational training. This means you’ll be getting a great deal of practical hours and experience with the course material. You can expect to gain a very specific set of skills alongside real-world exposure to what it means to pursue a career in a chosen field. Most diplomas take at least three years to complete.

What are Degrees?

There are two types of degrees that should be mentioned: Undergraduate Degrees and Postgraduate Degrees. Find out more about the differences between these two degrees from our blog article. An Undergraduate Degree usually takes at least three years, or more, to obtain. A Postgraduate Degree, like an Honours Degree will take about one to two years to complete. A Master’s Degree or Doctorate Degree is likely to take at least three to five years to complete.

These qualifications are focused on providing a balance between extreme critical thinking and some practical applications. You’ll typically receive a rounded overview of the subject with an Undergraduate Degree and become more specialised as you pursue your postgraduate qualifications. This is why students wanting to complete Honours or Masters first need to complete a Bachelor’s Degree.

Explore your study options with MANCOSA

Ultimately, only you can decide which type of qualification is best for your own personal academic and career goals. MANCOSA offers prospective students a wide variety of study options from certificates and diplomas through to degrees. Our programmes and courses are often available online so contact us today with any questions you may have, and one of our course advisors will do whatever they can to assist!

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