Education in Australia is primarily the responsibility of the states and territories. Each state or territory government provides funding and regulates the public and private schools within its governing area. The federal government helps fund the public universities, but is not involved in setting curriculum.
Generally, education in Australia follows the three-tier model which includes:
- primary education (primary schools),
- followed by secondary education (secondary schools/high schools)
- and tertiary education (universities, TAFE colleges and private registered training providers, known as RTOs).
Education in Australia is compulsory between the ages of five and fifteen to seventeen, depending on the state or territory, and date of birth. Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework, a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFE & RTOs) and the higher education sector (university).
Certificates I-IV are the basic post-secondary qualifications. They prepare candidates for both employment and further education and training. There is no firm duration for these qualifications. These courses are usually delivered by TAFE colleges, community education centres and registered private training providers.
Certificate 1: 6 months to 1 year
Graduates at this level have knowledge and skills for initial work and/or community engagement.
Certificate ll: 6 months to 1 year
Graduates at this level have knowledge and skills for work in a defined context.
Certificate lll: 1 to 2 years
Graduates at this level have theoretical and practical knowledge and skills for work.
Certificate IV: 6 months to 2 years
Graduates at this level have theoretical and practical knowledge and skills for specialised skilled work.
A Certificate IV is generally accepted by universities to be the equivalent of six to twelve months of a Bachelor's degree, and credit towards studies may be granted accordingly.
Summary: Certificates I-II provide basic vocational skills and knowledge, while Certificates III-IV replace the previous system of trade certificates and provide training in more advanced skills and knowledge.
Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Associate degree
Diploma: 1 to 2 years
Graduates at this level have specialised knowledge and skills for skilled professional work.
A diploma is the industry standard for the job you want. It is typically short (as compared to a degree), and practical in nature. So, for instance, if you want a job in IT fast, you get a IT diploma. If you want to study it in a greater context, then you do an Advanced Diploma, leading to a degree.
Advanced Diploma 1.5 to 2 years. Associate degree: 2 years.
Graduates at this level have broad knowledge and advanced skills for skilled professional work.
Summary: Courses at Diploma, Advanced Diploma and Associate degree level take between two to three years to complete, and are generally considered to be equivalent to one to two years of study at degree level. Diploma and Advanced Diploma are titles given to more practical courses, while Associate degree is given to more academic courses. These courses are usually delivered by universities, TAFE colleges, community education centres and private RTO's (Registered Training Organisations).
Bachelor degree, Bachelor degree with honours, Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma
Graduate certificate: 6 months to 1 year
Graduate diploma: 1 to 2 years
Bachelors degree with honours: 1 year
Bachelor degree and honours
The Bachelor degree is the standard university qualification and is recognised worldwide. Most courses take three to four years to complete.Graduates at this level have broad, coherent knowledge and an academic background for professional work.
Honours may be awarded atop a Bachelor degree after an additional year of study for three-year degrees or, in the case of four-year degrees, for performance at credit or distinction average level. An Honours degree is denoted by "Hons" in parentheses following the degree abbreviation, for example BA (Hons). Honours degrees requiring additional of study generally involve a research project and requires the completion of a thesis during the optional fourth year of study. These courses are almost exclusively delivered by universities.
Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma
These qualifications are much like Certificates and Diplomas but must be completed by someone with a Bachelor degree or higher. Certificates typically take 6 months to complete, while Diplomas take 12 months.
Summary: Graduates at this level have advanced knowledge and skills for highly skilled professional work.
Vocational certificates and diplomas tend to be more practically-oriented courses than their academic counterparts. These courses are usually delivered by universities and private providers.
A Master's degree usually requires two years of full time study to complete. A completed Bachelor degree, sometimes with honours, is a prerequisite for admission. The pattern of study generally takes one the following three forms:
Coursework - comprising coursework and project work, much like a Bachelor degree. In some fields also consists of a resarch component and requires the completion of a thesis. In such fields, completion of only the coursework component without submitting a thesis usually results in a graduate diploma being awarded instead.
Research - comprising substantial research and completion of a major, externally assessed thesis.
Extended - for preparation for professional practice in fields such as law, medicine and physiotherapy.
Masters degree (extended) are permitted to deviate from the 'Master of ...' naming convention. Those in legal practice may use the nameJuris Doctor, but do not allow a graduate use of the honorific title 'doctor', whereas those in medical practice, physiotherapy, dentistry, optometry and veterinary practice are allowed to be named 'Doctor of ...' and in most cases permit a graduate use of the title 'doctor'. Master's level courses are delivered by universities and a limited number of registered providers.
Masters degree (extended): 3 to 4 years
Masters degree (coursework): 1 to 2 years
Masters degree (research): 1 to 2 years
Graduates at this level have specialised knowledge and skills for research or professional practice.
The highest qualification, a Doctorate degree is awarded by a university either "by research" or "by publication". This generally requires the completion of a major thesis, which has to be assessed externally by experts in the field of study. Additionally, there are professional doctorates, which require less research and are partially assessed by coursework or projects. Entry into an Australian Doctorate requires an honours degree or "honours equivalent", a Masters degree is usually considered equivalent. Holders of Doctoral degrees are permitted to use the title 'doctor'.
Doctoral degree: 3 to 4 years
Graduates at this level have systematic and critical understanding of a complex field of learning, and specialised research skills for the advancement of learning or professional practice.
Australian Qualifications Framework
There has been growing overlap between the Vocational Education and Training (VET), organised under the National Training System, and Higher Education sectors in Australia. The two sectors form a continuum, with VET at the lower end and Higher Education at the higher. There has been a strong push towards mutual recognition of qualifications, with VET or Higher Education courses recognised towards other courses. We are currently looking into this.
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