Vocational Education and Training and higher-level courses help students gain career-focused skills relevant to today’s job market. Have you been skimming through college courses and found yourself confused by the different levels available? If you’re wondering what the difference is between a certificate and a diploma, and a graduate certificate and an advanced diploma, we’ve got the answers right here. Read on to discover what each course level means, and which one is right for you.

Certificate II

This level of qualification provides students a basic working knowledge of a topic. It may qualify a person to enter a particular professional field, but it is often considered a foundation course that prepares students for further study.

For example, at Central Australian College, we offer Certificate II in Automotive Servicing Technology. This course does not qualify students to become mechanics, but it provides the foundations needed to help in an automotive workplace or pursue higher-level courses.

Certificate II typically takes between six months to one year to complete.

Certificate III

Touching upon more advanced theoretical and practical knowledge, Certificate III gives students the skills to complete routine and occasionally challenging tasks. For example, Certificate III in Light Mechanical Technology qualifies a student to work as a mechanic. However, graduates may choose to pursue further study to improve their employment prospects and general skill level.

For most Cert III courses, you will need to be 18+ years old and have completed the equivalent of Australian year ten or higher.

Certificate III takes one year to complete due to its more advanced subject matter.

Certificate IV

A Certificate IV begins to address factual and technical skills. Graduates of a Cert IV course can take on skilled positions and use specialised knowledge in their careers.

Students enrolling at this level often have some educational or career experience and are looking to upskill or change careers. Cert IV also offers a pathway into more advanced studies.

Some courses (for example in marketing and communications) require the Certificate IV to be completed before you can enrol in any higher-level VET course.

A Certificate IV can take between six months and two years to complete, depending on what you are studying.


Students delve deeper into their subject matter during a diploma and learn the skills required to take on specialised job roles. Graduates will feel able to make challenging decisions, work well with colleagues and communicate complex ideas.

A diploma course can take between one and two years to complete.

Advanced Diploma

Obtaining an Advanced Diploma will qualify students as highly skilled workers ready to take on jobs or pursue higher education. The next academic level following an Advanced Diploma is a University Degree.

After gaining this qualification, you will be a paraprofessional, meaning that you may take on specific tasks but are not licensed as fully qualified. Therefore, this level course is excellent for those wishing to begin a new career or gain additional skills for their current job.

A course at this level will take between one and two years depending on the topic. For example, the Advanced Diploma of Leadership and Management at Central Australian College runs for 52 weeks.

Graduate Certificate

A graduate qualification is for those who already have extensive education or experience. It is also a step above a University Degree. A Graduate Certificate will build upon existing knowledge and skills and allow students to operate at a higher level in an organisation or increase their knowledge base. This type of course may also benefit those who wish to change careers.

Those choosing to undertake a Graduate Certificate may do so to explore their undergraduate degree topic further or study complimentary materials. Either way, the graduate certificate is a great accompaniment to previous academic and professional qualifications.

A Graduate Certificate takes roughly six months to complete. You can turn it into a Graduate Diploma with an additional six months of study.

Graduate Diploma

A step up from the Graduate Certificate, the Graduate Diploma is a longer course designed to help experienced individuals gain advanced knowledge and skills. It can be considered the ‘second half’ of the Graduate Certificate.

Individuals with a Graduate Diploma are considered highly skilled with excellent communication and problem-solving skills.

Additional qualification types


Skilled motor mechanic fixing window

An apprenticeship allows students to work and get paid while studying. They learn through classroom study and on-the-job training. For example, an automotive apprenticeship will see students working alongside motor mechanics in a workshop while also attending college classes.

Apprenticeships are, unfortunately, not available to international students.

English Language Courses

General Level

General Level English courses are for students who wish to pursue further study at an educational institution. The courses build upon reading, writing, speaking and listening to ensure students have a basic grasp of the language skills required for further study.

General Level courses are relatively short, with both CAC programs running for 11 weeks. You also need to take a placement test (IELTS or PTE) which will determine which level you can take.

English for Academic purpose

These English language courses are specifically designed to help learners gain entry into higher education programs. Whether you want to study at Central Australian college, TAFE or university, this course will help you achieve the language skills necessary to thrive.

To be placed into a particular level, you will need to take a placement test such as IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or PTE (Pearson Test of English Academic). Each course at CAC lasts 11 weeks.

Certificate in EAL

Certificates in English as an Additional Language are for students from non-English speaking backgrounds. Each course focusses on reading, writing, speaking and listening.

During the higher-level certificates, students will increase their vocabulary, read and write extensively, and become familiar with norms and practices within Australian academic contexts. After completing these courses, students will have increased employment potential and can enrol in other educational courses in Australia.

Certificate I in EAL (Access) is the first level and Certificate IV in EAL (Further Study) is the highest. Each certificate at CAC takes 26 weeks to complete.

If you would like to explore the range of courses available at Central Australian College, you can do so here. Or, for more information, get in contact! We look forward to hearing from you.