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What is a Diploma and 5 reasons to study one in Australia

So what exactly is a diploma, and why should you study one? Let's explore the reasons.

Education plays a significant role when applying for jobs, so understanding the difference between certain education qualifications can help you determine what career path to take.  

Have you ever heard of diplomas? Diplomas from TAFE and VET institutions are pretty common, but let’s uncover more about university diplomas and highlight how they compare to other study options.  

What is a diploma? 

A diploma in Australia (generally a one-year qualification) is perfect if you would like to start your studies with a bite-sized portion. It’s more detailed than a certificate but less comprehensive than an associate degree or a bachelor. You can study a diploma as either a vocational training or higher education qualification and you’ll gain knowledge you can apply directly to the workplace. 

At university, a diploma is a qualification in its own right but can also be a pathway to a bachelor and beyond. You gain foundation skills in broad or specific discipline areas, depending on which one you choose. A university diploma builds your transferrable skills and teaches you to communicate, to analyse and think critically, and to collaborate with peers. So, is a diploma an undergraduate degree and why should I study one? Let’s unpack things further. 

Types of diplomas

VET/RTO diplomas

A diploma delivered by a TAFE college or Registered Training Organisation (RTO) offer Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses that are practical in nature and often delivered with certain professions in mind. While university degrees may focus on broader topics, VET courses are broken down into individual skills or competencies. If you prefer practical application to theory, a VET diploma may be more your learning style.  

University diplomas

An undergraduate diploma introduces you to the academic culture of uni studies and is the best answer to get your dream career started without committing to too much. At an Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) level 5, it’s all about providing the important foundational skills necessary for success in higher education or in your work environment. 

A graduate diploma is a postgraduate coursework qualification, an AQF level 8, and often studied after a bachelor degree to advance your knowledge in a specific field. Some graduate diplomas can also be used to change career paths. If you haven’t got an undergraduate degree, you may be able to enter based on relevant work experience. 


Diploma vs Bachelor degree – what’s the difference? 

If you’re looking at starting your first degree, let’s compare a diploma with a bachelor, which is the most common undergraduate degree.  

How long it takes to study 

A diploma takes significantly less time to study. Normally, it can be completed in one year while a bachelor's degree takes three or four years. Bachelor degrees with an honours component, where you complete a research project in specialised field, usually takes a minimum four years. How long a diploma takes, just like any other university qualification, varies depending on whether you’re studying full-time or part-time.  

How to get in 

Another difference between a diploma and a bachelor degree is the entry requirements. To gain entry to a bachelor degree, you’ll need an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) as well as subject pre-requisites. These are specific subjects you must have studies to be eligible for an offer into uni, such as English or maths. 

Diplomas have fewer pre-requisites. In most circumstances, you will only require an ATAR for entry. If you haven't got an ATAR, we can derive a selection rank based on your prior study, work experience or professional qualifications. General or pathway diplomas, such as the Diploma of University Studies, are open to everyone and can be an ideal alternative if you are wondering how to get into uni without an ATAR.  

What you will study 

Bachelor degrees provide a solid knowledge base and initial preparation for a professional career and postgraduate study. They also provide you with an opportunity to develop expertise in an area you are passionate about. 

Diplomas can give you specific subject knowledge but also foundational skills you can apply direct in the job market or to further learning. Depending on what industry you want to get into, a diploma can provide a chance to quickly hone professional skills that make you more employable.

When you graduate with your diploma, you'll have a head start on those subjects if you want to study further. In some cases, you may receive credits for the subjects you have studied in your diploma when transitioning into a bachelor degree.

5 reasons to study a diploma at university 

1. A great starting point!  

If it’s been some time since you studied, you haven’t completed high school, or your goals have changed, a diploma provides a quality foundation for tertiary study to set you up for uni success or an advancement in your career! One of the fastest ways to gain entry into a bachelor degree, if you don’t meet the entry requirements, is to start with a Diploma of University Studies.  

2.  Study on your terms 

As most diploma courses are offered online, you’ll have plenty of flexibility that enables you to balance work, life and family commitments along with your study. Listen to recorded lectures when it suits you and connect with your lecturers and peers with ease through online discussion forums. You’ll receive the same level of support as an on-campus student. The only difference - you’re in control of when, where and how you learn. 

3.  Cost benefits

If you’re not completely sure about what you want to be, or what career to pursue, spending money on further education can be a big financial step. As a diploma takes a shorter amount of time to study, it’s often less expensive than other qualifications as well. Sometimes, earning a diploma can cost less than half of what someone might pay for a bachelor degree.

4.  Ticket to advancement

Gain valuable tools, pre-requisites and academic confidence when studying a diploma. Once you graduate with a diploma, and provided you meet all the entry requirements, you can often fast-track your studies and transfer your credits directly into an undergraduate degree to further build on your qualifications and advance your career goals.

5.  Build on your current skills and experiences

Certain job opportunities may only require upskilling in a specific area. A diploma course with less commitment than a higher-level qualification might be enough to support you in reaching that goal. Remember that the skills most sought after by employers will be transferable across sectors and not necessarily occupation-focused, including teamwork, adaptability, communication, creative thinking and problem-solving.

Which diploma should I study?

The University of Southern Queensland offers four undergraduate diplomas to start off your study journey.

Diploma of University Studies

The Diploma of University Studies is open to anyone over 18 years of age and allows you to develop essential study skills in English, critical analysis and mathematics. You can choose one of eight specialisations to sample a study area you are interested in. Why not specialise in engineering, creative arts, science, business, construction, or indigenous community development? This diploma can be a pathway to your dream degree, all while you gain the confidence to study along the way.

Diploma of Human Services and Development

Want to make a positive difference to the community in which you and others live? Our Diploma of Human Services and Development may be for you. Study foundational principles of human rights, mental health, Indigenous issues, case management, as well as ethical and social responsibilities that are essential to work in the community development environment. 

Diploma of Science

Kick-start your career and see what it's like to study science at university. The eight subjects you study in the Diploma of Science can give you a head start on your next degree. Get a taste for various scientific disciplines, such as Biology, IT, Wildlife Management, or Mathematics.

Diploma of Wine

Swirl, sniff, sip and study the fundamental concepts of wine science, viticulture, wine making, wine appraisal and more with UniSQ’s Diploma of Wine, for an opportunity to work in a vineyard, a winery, or both. It's not all theory in a virtual classroom. You will receive practical training and attend residential schools at the Queensland College of Wine Tourism (QCWT) which is situated right in the heart of the Granite Belt Wine region in Stanthorpe.

Taking the next step

Whether you are deciding between a Diploma vs Bachelor or Associate degree vs Certificate – at UniSQ you can be assured that that regardless of the study path you choose, you won’t be on the journey alone. We’ll work alongside you, providing tailored support to keep you on track with your studies every step of the way. With flexible learning options and so many ways to study, you’ll be able to tailor your study to suit your needs and fit in with your lifestyle.

When you’re ready to take the next steps, reach out to our team. Whether you’re working towards upskilling and increasing your employability, or wanting to embark on career change journey, we’re here to help you reach your goal.