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Levels of study

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To help you out we’ve put together a detailed list of qualifications available to the potential student in Australia.

If you’re thinking of going, or going back, to school then figuring out which qualification you should get isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Whether you’re brand new to tertiary education, or already on some rung of the ladder, you will be forgiven for finding it confusing. finder.com.au is here to make sense of the complicated and make it easy for you to make the right decision. So here we take you through the different levels of education, what they mean, and how to go about attaining them.

Latest July 2022 deals for diplomas and certificates:

What are levels of study for undergraduate study?

The undergraduate degree is where most people start. It is most common for this to be a Bachelor's degree, but there are other types of undergraduate study, including associate degree, or certificates.

University Certificate

A university certificate is a short courses available at undergraduate level. It is usually completed in one year of full time study and requires the completion of eight standard subjects.

Associate degree

An associate's degree is the next step up. It usually takes two years of full-time study and can be used to gain credit for subsequent study at the Bachelor level.

Bachelor degree

For most people, this will be there first degree. It’s the most popular course at university level and typically takes three or four years of full-time study. It is also possible to complete a double degree, in which two complementary areas are studied at the same time, usually over four years. It can also be possible to get an Honours degree, with a little extra study. See below for more.

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What are levels of study for honours study?

Honours study is a usually an additional year of undergraduate study, during which time a student will work to create a specialist body of research based work. You can study for Honours as part of your Bachelor's degree, on enrol separately after you graduate from the Bachelor's course.

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What are levels of study for postgraduate study?

Postgraduate study is everything you study after graduation from the bachelor's level. Perhaps its most common form is the Master's degree, but there are plenty of variations available. It is a more demanding course, often with greater focus and a greater level of complexity.

Postgraduate degree levels include:

Graduate Certificate

The Graduate Certificate is a short course of study, often completed part-time in one year. It is ideal for those who have an undergraduate, but who do not have time to commit to a full Master’s degree, or who want to slowly work their way back into the educational mindset.

Graduate Diploma

The Graduate Diploma typically takes two years and is often studied part-time. It is a more advanced qualification than the Graduate Certificate.


A Master’s degree is a highly specialised qualification that boldly declares its graduates to be a master of their chosen subject. It is available in many subjects and specialist areas, can be studied part-time or full-time, and (if studied full-time) would usually take one or two years to complete, depending on the institution and the subject field.

Doctorate (PhD)

PhD is a highly advanced degree that often can take up to six years to complete. It is often studied part-time alongside research or teaching at university level, and will consist of challenging coursework, independent research and a written thesis.

Higher degree by coursework

This will be encountered on route to a Master’s degree, and basically means that you can combine coursework or independent study with a dissertation to make up a large portion of your grade, usually up to one-third.

Higher degree by research

This could be encountered on your way to a PhD, and sometimes a Master’s degree, it means that you can spend up to two-thirds of your course focusing on creating a thesis based on your own independent research.

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