How does a degree actually work?

Thursday, December 6, 2018
Undergrad? Postgrad? Diploma? Degree? Understanding the meanings of tertiary language can help you decide what to study and how to study it.

You’ve been to the careers expos and swung past the career adviser’s office and probably collected a mountain of booklets and flyers from different institutions all convincing you to enrol in their courses. But reaching the end of the year, you might not want to admit to yourself that the whole process is still not quite clear in your mind. So, let’s break down some of the basics of tertiary education so you know what to expect.

First of all, it’s helpful to know that ‘tertiary education’ refers to any type of education beyond high school. There are 10 levels of qualifications as part of this, ranging from level 1 (Certificate I) to level 10 (Doctoral Degree/PhD). In this post we’ll discuss levels 3 – 10, with level 7 being the main focus.


Usually, when people refer to a ‘degree’ it generally means an undergraduate bachelor’s degree and this falls into the 7thlevel of tertiary education. When you finish your undergraduate studies, you’ll receive a “Bachelor of (insert title)“. So basically, ‘undergraduate’ refers to the type of study you are doing to receive your bachelor’s degree.

To complete this, you need to pass (or ace!) between 24 and 32 units (in school you’d call them classes; in uni, you call them units). Most units are core to the degree you are studying, and in some courses there is also some room to choose elective units – ones you can do for fun!

On a full-time study load a student will take on four units per semester and there are two semesters in a year. This means that a bachelor’s degree usually takes three to four years to complete, however, some choose to study part time and do two subjects per semester, extending the length of their degree.

Avondale has many quality undergraduate study options, including bachelor degrees in Nursing, Teaching, Arts, Business, Theology and more. Find your course here.

TIP: You don’t need to wait until your school results come out to apply to study at Avondale! You can always get the paperwork out of the way, apply for your course and send your results in afterwards. You will also need to apply directly with Avondale, and can do so here.


Following on from undergraduate, postgraduate refers to the type of study you are doing to receive a Graduate Diploma (level 8), Masters (level 9) or Doctoral Degree (level 10).

You will need to already have a bachelor’s degree to do a graduate diploma or masters, and you will need a masters to undertake a doctoral degree. These are highly involved areas of study where students have a chance to specialise in a particular area, and excel academically in original research and coursework.

Avondale offers several kinds of postgraduate study options, and if this sounds like you, find more information here.

TIP: Due to Avondale’s renowned teaching degree, many students who have studied something else and then decide their bachelor’s was not for them are able to complete a Masters of Teaching and teach in a classroom after two years. See details for Primary and Secondary.

Certificate III, IV and Diploma

At levels 3, 4 and 5, Avondale also offers a Cert III in Outdoor Recreation (you may be able to complete both the Certificate III and Certificate IV in one year) and a Diploma of Outdoor Recreation, courses that provide professional training in an array of adventure activities.

TIP: These courses can serve as a gap-year option, pathway into undergraduate study or provide the qualifications needed to work in the outdoors industry.

Find your adventure here.

Whatever you choose to do after school, it’s good to know your options and have a better understanding of how your tertiary studies fit together. At Avondale, we are keen to help you in your education and find the best path for you!

Contact Avondale Admissions on 02 4980 2377 for more information or apply online now.

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Sharna Kosmeier

Sharna Kosmeier is a Bachelor of Arts graduate from Avondale College of Higher Education. She now works for Avondale Marketing Services.