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 exemption or equivalent? Maybe you’ve already endured many wounds, exertion, thirst and hunger to get yourself through the gateways of graduation glory? Either way, both undergraduate and postgraduate students may find themselves asking one very specific question:

“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 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?

These types of courses typically take a 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 skillset. These are typically industry-orientated and graduates can expect to receive an introduction into practical techniques that are pre-requisites for pursuing a job in a very specific field.

What are Diplomas?

This type of qualification 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 in 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. You’ll find postgraduate diplomas are typically obtained over 3 years or more.

What are Degrees?

Usually also taking 3 or more years to obtain, degrees are obtained at both an undergrad (Bachelors) and postgrad (Honours and Masters) level. 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 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.

Ultimately, only you can decide which is best for your own personal academic and career goals. 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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