Diplomas, Degrees, and Certificates in New Zealand: What’s the Difference?

If you’re planning to pursue or currently pursuing your studies in New Zealand, you need to understand two crucial details. These are the NZQF level of the programme of study and the type of qualification.

NZQF stands for New Zealand Qualification Framework, which provides information about what kind of knowledge and experience a person holding a certain type of qualification should have. The NZQF, which has 10 levels, also helps determine the kinds of employment or further education opportunities a qualification can offer.

The governing body for NZQF is the New Zealand Qualifications Authority or NZQA.

Meanwhile, the types of qualifications in New Zealand are the following: certificates, diplomas, and degrees. Do note that each of these three qualifications can also be taken after you’ve completed after you graduate from school. Below, we’ll take a look at how each differs from the other.

What Are Certificates?

A certificate essentially equips you with basic to broad operational and theoretical knowledge in a field of work or study. For example, if you take a health and safety training course, you will earn a certificate for it.  You can also undertake multiple courses or learning programmes at the same time to earn their certificates. Just make sure you complete the requisite number of credits (which is 40).

Certificates range from levels 1 through 6; the higher the level, the more specialised you’re expected to be. Depending on the course or learning programmes, it can take you a few hours up to a year to complete your certificate studies. In addition, a certificate may be credited towards your continuing education.

What Are Diplomas?

Diplomas are highly focused on teaching and developing industry-specific skills. It will take you about one to two years of study to acquire a diploma. After this period, you’re expected to have specialised and in-depth technical or theoretical knowledge. This is opposed to degrees, where there is a more holistic approach. Some people also consider a diploma the more practical, hands-on side and a degree the more academic facet of learning.

Diplomas are levels 5 through 7. The requisite number of credits is 120 from the previous level or above, 72 of which must be at or above the level you’re planning to complete. If you’re taking a level 6 programme, for example, the 120 credits must be composed of credits from level 5 or above and 72 of those must be at level 6 or above.

Just like certificates, you can also choose to study and acquire multiple diplomas after you’ve graduated and received your degree.

What Are Degrees?

A bachelor’s degree or simply a degree takes about three or four years (if you’re a full-time student) to complete. It provides a more holistic and systematic approach of study, focusing on a major subject. However, you can study for a double degree, combining practically any subject you want.

After receiving your first degree (or degrees), you can proceed to take postgraduate or graduate studies. These include master’s, doctorates, as well as a host of postgraduate certificates and diplomas.

A bachelor’s degree programme is open to anyone who has completed entrance requirements, which are usually at level 3 of the NZQA. A degree itself is at level 7 to 10, requiring a minimum of 360 credits from levels 5 to 7 and 72 of those must be level 7 or higher. However, depending on your field of study, you may need more credits and/or more years of study.

Domestic and International Students: What Can You Study?

There are two kinds of students in New Zealand: domestic and international. A domestic student is someone who has New Zealand citizenship or Australian citizenship or those with a New Zealand Residence Class Visa or Australian Permanent Residence. New Zealand citizenship includes those born in the cook Islands, Niue, or Tokelau, as well as those who achieved the status by descent.

If you have Australian citizenship, New Zealand Residence Class Visa, or Australian Permanent Residence, you’ll be eligible for domestic fees only if you’re residing in Aotearoa New Zealand while you’re studying.

International students, on the other hand, are those who don’t meet the above-mentioned requirements. However, if you’re a new international PhD student, you’ll be given the domestic status for tuition fees.

What’s more, international students have three options with regards to their studies. The first is to study one or more courses that will not last longer than 3 months in total. The second is to apply for a variation of conditions. This is applicable when your preferred programme is longer than 3 months or if you want to study consecutive courses that will last longer than 3 months

There are certain exceptions to the second option. For example, if you’re on a work visa, you can study for longer than 3 months if it’s a part of your agreement with your employer. Of course, you can also apply for a student visa if you want to acquire a diploma or a degree without worrying about any violations.

Good luck with your studies!


Understanding New Zealand qualifications » NZQA

Can I study part-time while working? | Immigration New Zealand

CC Training Academy offers diploma and certificate courses.