6 Academic qualifications you need to know

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Do you know the difference between a diploma and a master's degree? If you are thinking about studying further or entering the field of higher learning for the first time it might be a good idea to know these terms.

The world of higher learning works like the rungs of a ladder. You can't move to the next step until you have reached the one before.

As you move through the learning levels the amount of time, work and money you will be required to invest increases, but so do the benefits and opportunities.

While you may change your mind about your subject choice or field of study, the qualifications and what it takes to achieve them generally remain the same.

To help you understand the differences we have highlighted the 6 basic types of academic qualifications you can achieve in South Africa:

1. Higher Certificate

Higher certificates are practical in nature. They aim to equip the student with a set of skills rather than theoretical knowledge. These certificates are achieved in one year. During this time students will receive an introduction to a particular field of study. The entry requirements for certificate courses are typically a matric pass or equivalent. Are you struggling to choose a career path? A higher certificate course might be a good place to start.

2. National Diploma

These are three-year programmes which offer a combination of theoretical and practical training. These courses are similar to degree courses however diploma's have a greater focus on internship or practical work experience. A matric exemption or equivalent should allow you to enter a diploma course.

3. Bachelor's Degree

A degree course requires a four year commitment that must generally be completed on a full-time basis. Despite the length of time the degree is a popular choice because it allows students to qualify for entry into higher level studies. Degrees are also internationally recognized unlike diplomas. This allows graduates to practice their profession in other countries. In comparison to certificates and diplomas, degrees are more theoretical. Degree programmes can require a matric exemption with additional criteria in order to enter.

4. Honours Degree

Only students with a bachelors degree are qualified to pursue an honours degree programme. This is known as postgraduate studies. Honours qualifications frequently involve approximately one year of full-time study as a combination of coursework and a research project. During this time postgraduates receive the skills and training required for a professional career. The Honours degree can also act as a stepping stone to the next level of training.

5. Master's Degree

A master's degree aims to develop researchers who can contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field. It is also a good option for professionals who want to specialize in a certain area of work. A Master's Degree can be achieved by producing a thesis or by completing a coursework programme which includes a research project. The minimum admission requirement is a relevant bachelor honours degree, a professional Bachelor’s degree or a postgraduate diploma.

6. Doctoral Degree

This degree usually requires a minimum of two years’ full time study and is the highest qualification level after the master’s degree. Only those who produce research at a top academic level can achieve a doctoral degree. Doctorate students must present a thesis that merits publication in order to receive this title.

By Cindy Payle - Portal Publishing

Source: Boston City Campus, Regent Business School

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