Diploma vs Degree - Which is Better?

diploma vs degree

You have no doubt heard of words like master’s, bachelor’s, honours, diploma, degree, and so on. We know these words are associated with educational courses. However, what makes one different from the other?

In this article, we’ll closely look at the differences between a diploma and a degree specifically. Is one better than the other? Read on to discover everything you need to know about these tertiary qualifications.

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Lowest to Highest Tertiary Qualifications

  • Year 12 – HSC
  • Certificates I, II, III, IV – Developing skills and knowledge in a specialised area
  • Diploma – Specialised skills and knowledge for work and/or further learning
  • Associate degree – A shorter undergraduate degree that will enhance skills and competency in a field
  • Bachelor and honours – Standard uni degree; basic qualification to enter a profession
  • Graduate certificate and diploma – Develops vocational skills in a new area or expands knowledge and skills from an undergraduate degree
  • Masters – Enhances knowledge and skills in a specialised area, consisting of course work and research
  • Doctorate, including PhD – Highest qualification; producing a thesis and research project in a certain area

Diploma vs Degree


What is a diploma?

This is a course that provides you with specialised skills and knowledge designed for further learning and/or skills.

How long does the course take?

Between one and two years.


This depends on the sort of diploma you take and where it is taken. There are some universities that would require you to study an undergraduate bachelor’s degree while doing your diploma. For other diplomas, you may be required to have your Year 12 HSC, while other diplomas will not ask for an ATAR.

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Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma

This course is designed for someone who has already achieved their undergraduate bachelor’s degree and is going back to university for further study.

What is it?

A Graduate Diploma is vocationally-focused and specialised. The goal for taking this kind of diploma is to advance your knowledge and skills in your chosen field. This will expand your knowledge and skills from your undergraduate degree. It can also be beneficial if you are looking to develop vocational skills in a new area. Both options typically result in highly-skilled or professional work.

How long does the course take?

A Diploma takes one year, whereas a Certificate will take six months.


You will need a Bachelor’s Degree. However, there have been cases whereby relevant work experience is deemed sufficient at certain universities and in certain circumstances.

Degrees/Associate Degree

What is it?

Associate degrees can be taken at TAFE and universities. These are undergraduate academic degrees that are shorter in terms of course time. They are designed to improve skills and competency in a certain field, ensuring you are prepared to enter the workforce and secure a paid job.

How long does the course take?

Two years.


You will need Year 12 or equivalent, Certificate III, or Certificate IV.

Bachelor’s Degree

Despite the name, taking a Bachelor’s Degree has nothing to do with becoming an eligible bachelor and living a life of luxury. However, this is something you may be able to achieve in the future if you come out with a First Class Hons Degree!

What is it?

This is what is known as your standard university degree. It is a basic university-level qualification, which you will often need to enter a number of specific professions and fields. In most cases, you will major in at least one area. This sort of degree is deemed a higher qualification when compared with an Associate’s Degree. In some cases, depending on the nature of the course and the educational institution, you are able to extend your bachelor’s degree with an extra year of honours study. This relates to an advanced study, which involves a specialised focus. Some people will then move onto postgraduate study from this.

How long does the course take?

This sort of course will usually take between three and four years. However, some courses take longer, for example, combined double degrees. A combined law degree can last for five years or more.


You will need Year 12 or equivalent, Certificate III, or Certificate IV.

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Master’s Degree

What is it?

This is deemed one of the highest qualifications that anyone can receive in Australia. This course consists of independent research, as well as course work, which is designed to enhance your knowledge and skills in a certain area. This tends to lead to further research in a certain area and/or professional practice.

How long?

Between one year and two years.


Bachelor Degree or Bachelor Degree (Honours)

Doctoral Degree

What is it?

This is the highest qualification awarded by universities in Australia. Professional Doctorate Degrees involve coursework and research. Sometimes there is going to be professional work as well. Generally, you will need to finish a thesis and research project in a certain area.

How long does the course take?

A minimum of three years.


Honours or Masters Degree.

As you can see, there is a lot that needs to be considered when it comes to choosing the right qualifications for you. We hope this article about diploma vs degree has helped to shed some light.

When it comes to plotting out your career, it is always a good idea to start backwards. Figure out what career you’d like to have and then understand the steps that you are going to need to get there.

Meanwhile, if you can’t afford to study in university for a degree, you can opt for the affordable online courses that we offer. Feel free to send an inquiry by clicking the orange button below if you’re interested.

Have a successful career ahead!