Looking to undertake some official studies? You’ve no doubt come across terms like certification, accreditation and qualification… but what does it all really mean? Are they the same thing? Let’s break it down.

What is a Qualification? 

A recognised qualification is a course that is recognised and taught at the same standard all over Australia. Nationally recognised courses are VET (vocational education and training) Accredited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). Basically, this means that nationally recognised qualifications are the same, whether you earn it in NSW, QLD, VIC, and so on. 

What’s the benefit of receiving a qualification? It means employers across Australia have the peace of mind and guarantee that your qualification is quality-assured and meets a certain standard.

Qualification levels and course types

  • Doctoral Degree: Level 10 
  • Masters Degree: Level 9
  • Graduate Certificate or Diploma: Level 8
  • Bachelor Degree: Level 7
  • Advanced Diploma: Level 6
  • Diploma: Level 5
  • Certificate IV: Level 4
  • Certificate III: Level 3
  • Certificate II: Level 2
  • Certificate I: Level 1

There are several levels and course types when it comes to qualifications, and each course provides different levels of training and prepares you for different kinds of work. Take a Certificate I or Certificate II for example – these qualifications are a good place to start when learning a new skill. A Diploma, however, is one step further and could lead you into a highly skilled job or be a gateway to a University course.

All qualifications are made up of unique units of competency. Each unit identifies a distinct workplace requirement, or skill needed to perform a particular task effectively in the workplace. When you do a certain course, each unit is assessed, which goes towards receiving the qualification.

What is Accreditation?

A vocational education and training (VET) accredited course has been assessed by ASQA as compliant with the Standards for VET Accredited Courses And the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

Accreditation is formal confirmation that the course:

  • is nationally recognised and meets quality assurance requirements
  • meets an established industry, enterprise, educational, legislative or community need
  • provides appropriate competency outcomes and a satisfactory basis for assessment
  • is aligned appropriately to the AQF where it leads to a VET qualification.

Each VET accredited course receives a national code and appears on the national register, training.gov.au. A VET accredited course must fulfil a training need not addressed by a training package or address training in a new or emerging area. 

ASQA can accredit a VET course for all qualification types recognised under the AQF that are eligible for delivery within the VET sector, including:

  • Certificate I
  • Certificate II
  • Certificate III
  • Certificate IV
  • Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Graduate Diploma

Anybody can develop a course for accreditation.

What is a Certification/Non-Accredited Course

Certification means you’ve completed some sort of training and have a certificate. If the training is a non-accredited certification, the certification could have been a training course put together based on the beliefs of the provider, or it could have been based on a standard established by others. Many people believe a non-accredited course often has less value, but that’s not always the case. Non-accredited certifications are a great way to learn new skills or build on existing skills. They’re usually shorter in duration too.

The downside is that non-accredited certifications have no industry standard, so it’s important to do your research and vet the certification/read reviews of the course before choosing if it’s right for you. You can get a job with a non-accredited certificate, but you might not be able to apply for roles that stipulate accreditation as part of the role description. 


  • Qualification: Formal certification issued by a relevant approved body, to recognise that a person has achieved learning outcomes or competency relevant to an identified individual, professional, industry or community needs.
  • Accreditation: Accredited means the course is nationally recognised and that a registered training organisation (RTO) can issue a nationally recognised qualification or Statement of Attainment following its full or partial completion. Accredited courses meet industry, enterprise or community needs. 
  • Certification/Non-Accredited Course: This means you’ve completed some sort of training and have a certificate of completing the training. A non-accredited course focuses on equipping students with a specific skill set.