How does a degree actually work?

Monday, January 11, 2021
Confused? Let’s explain and simplify some uni terms.

You may have been to careers expos and probably collected a mountain of booklets and flyers talking about all sorts of courses. You see words like “undergrad,” “postgrad,” “diploma” and “degree” and are still confused about what they mean. Well, here’s your handy guide to understanding to the levels of tertiary education.

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). In this post, we’ll discuss levels 3-10, with level 7 being the main focus.

Certificate IV and Diploma

At levels 4 and 5, Avondale offers a Certificate IV in Outdoor Leadership, and a Diploma of Outdoor Leadership (level 5), 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.

Degree/Undergraduate Study

Level 6 is an advanced diploma and level 7 a bachelor’s degree. Usually, when people refer to a “degree,” they mean an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. When you finish your undergraduate studies, you’ll receive a “Bachelor of (insert title).”

To complete this, you need to pass between 24 and 32 units (in school you’d call them classes; at uni, you call them units). Most units are core to the degree you’re studying, and in some degrees there’s also 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 (although some unis have trimesters—three semesters a year). This means a bachelor’s degree usually takes three to four years to complete, but some students choose to study part time and do two units per semester, extending the length of their degree.

Avondale has several undergraduate study options, including bachelor degrees in nursing, teaching, arts, business, theology and more. You can 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’ll also need to apply directly with Avondale, and can do so here.


Following on from undergraduate, postgraduate refers to the type of study you can do to receive a graduate certificate or graduate diploma (level 8), master’s (level 9) or doctorate (level 10).

You’ll need to already have a bachelor’s degree to do a graduate certificate, graduate diploma or master’s, and you’ll need a master’s to do 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, you can find more information 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’s Student Administration Services on 02 4980 2377 for more information or apply online now.

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Sharna Kosmeier

Sharna Kosmeier

Sharna Kosmeier graduated with a Bachelor of Arts specialising in communication from Avondale University College in 2017. She now enjoys using what she has learnt to promote her alma mater—Sharna works in Advancement where her focus is on content creation and advertising. Outside the office, you might find Sharna running, journaling or trying to not get burnt at the beach.