If you’re looking to study or learn a new skill, there are a variety of pathways to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Whether you receive a qualification, accreditation, or certification, there are plenty of methods for learning. However, some are better than others, so how do you know what’s the right learning pathway for you?

Many learning courses are defined by the Australian Qualification Framework and are recognised across the country. There are 10 levels of qualifications as defined by the AQF. The duration of a course varies depending on the volume of knowledge being taught, the subject matter and whether it is undertaken online or on campus, full-time or part-time. These levels of qualification are:

  • 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

These are all examples of qualifications. 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 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.

Then there’s accreditation. 

What is an Accredited Course? 

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. Accredited courses can only be delivered by ROTs that own the course or have permission from the course owner to deliver the accredited course, and have the accredited course on their VET scope of registration.

Following on from an accredited course is a certification/non-accredited course or online course.

What is a Certification/Non-Accredited Course/Online Course? 

Are certifications/non-accredited courses and online courses the same thing? Yes and no. Certification means you’ve completed some sort of training and have a certificate. This is typically the outcome of a non-accredited course or online course. 

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. There is no national governance of certifications, and what you learn is really up to the discretion of the provider. For example, courses you see marketed online from Instagram health and fitness coaches. While these public figures might have their own health and fitness qualifications, it doesn’t mean the course they’re teaching about health and fitness is accredited or meets the industry standard. 

Also, while you can get a job with a non-accredited certificate, you won’t be able to apply for roles that stipulate accreditation as part of the role description. Many employers in Australia at a minimum require some kind of qualification or accreditation, so if you’re looking to go down a certain career path, it’s vital you research the type of study you need to complete to secure a job in the field. 

Basically, if you want to pursue a certification or non-accredited online course, make sure it’s one that’s been peer-reviewed so you know you’re getting what you pay for. 

Examples of Non-Accredited Online Courses

Udemy, Futurelearn, and Coursera are just some examples of websites that offer both accredited and non-accredited online courses. However, the accredited courses aren’t all within the AQF framework which is important to note if you’re looking to get employed in Australia with Australian accreditation. For example on Udemy, you can take an accredited certificate advanced level psychology course. The course is fully accredited by the International Association of Therapists (IAOTH).

Why a Qualification or Accreditation is Best 

If you’re looking to secure some kind of employment in the future, chances are you’ll need a qualification or accreditation. Not everyone does, however, For example, to be a content creator online (a very modern job), you don’t need any formal training – but most jobs do ask for a minimum of accreditation.

When choosing your next study pathway, receiving a qualification or accreditation will more often than not be the best course of action. These pathways are held to a nationally recognised standard, meaning you can rest assured you’ll be learning all the required knowledge to succeed and excel in the field.