Home > Study Information > Study options > Australian Qualifications Framework

Australian Qualifications Framework

If you don't know the difference between an advanced diploma and a degree, there’s no need to stress. The great thing about Australia’s education system is that it has a structured framework of accredited qualifications, which you can use to make sense of each of the qualification levels.

In this section we discuss:

  • What is the AQF?
  • The AQF by sector
  • AQF aims
  • Quality assurance

What is the AQF?

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) regulates all Australian qualifications and officially defines the level of education that each qualification title represents. Each qualification generally leads into the next qualification (see below) in the education framework.

Having a nationally standardised system makes it easier for students to pursue their education, as there is a clear pathway to follow. It also makes transferring between different states and territories or universities much easier, as there is no confusion caused by differing qualification titles and education levels.

The AQF is made up of ten levels:

AQF level

Qualification type

Level 1

Certificate I

Level 2

Certificate II

Level 3

Certificate III

Level 4

Certificate IV

Level 5

Diploma

Level 6

Advanced diploma
Associate degree

Level 7

Bachelor degree

Level 8

Bachelor honours degree
Vocational graduate certificate
Vocational graduate diploma
Graduate certificate
Graduate diploma

Level 9

Masters degree (research)
Masters degree (coursework)
Masters degree (extended)

Level 10

Doctoral degree
Higher doctoral degree

The AQF by sector

The AQF includes qualifications in three main education sectors (the schools sector, the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector and the higher education sector) within a single framework and provides guidelines about the links between them.

The accredited qualifications are shown below, grouped according to the sector in which they are most commonly issued.

Schools sector

VET sector

Higher education sector

Senior Secondary Certificate of Education

Note: VET is increasingly offered in the schools sector

Certificate I
Certificate II
Certificate III
Certificate IV
Diploma
Advanced diploma
Vocational graduate certificate
Vocational graduate diploma

Diploma
Advanced diploma
Associate degree
Bachelor degree
Bachelor honours degree
Graduate certificate
Graduate diploma
Masters degree
Doctoral degree

Note that the higher education sector is broken into undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications. Undergraduate qualifications consist of bachelor degrees (and subsequent bachelor honours degrees) and provide initial education for entry into professional careers. Postgraduate qualifications consist of graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, masters degrees and doctoral degrees. These programs provide further advanced-level professional study that enables students to extend their knowledge, enter a new field or complete research.

AQF aims

The AQF aims to:

  • provide nationally consistent recognition of outcomes achieved in post-compulsory education
  • help with developing flexible pathways that assist people to move more easily between education and training sectors and the labour market by providing a basis for recognition of prior learning, including credit transfer and experience
  • promote national and international recognition of qualifications offered in Australia
  • standardise credit arrangements for students progressing to higher qualification levels or changing institutions, although credit needs to be negotiatied with the individual institution.

Quality assurance

Accredited courses undergo a government-administered process of review, either directly through relevant authorities or indirectly through universities that are appointed 'self-accrediting' entities.

Private colleges must register with the AQF to be eligible to offer higher education qualifications.

A list of all registered courses and providers; further information on AQF qualifications and learning pathways; and direct links to other relevant websites can be found on the AQF website.

You can find a list of all recognised Registered Training Organisations, accredited courses and training packages on the training.gov.au website.

Study Information