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Exploring Your Degree Options; What and How You Could Study in Higher Ed

29 April 2022   |   by Explore Careers

If you’ve been thinking that higher education might be on the cards for your future, you might also have a few questions about what that pathway could look like.

There are many different types of qualifications and ways to get into higher study – and now’s as good a time as any to start demystifying what your own path could look like.

Here’s an overview of a few things worth knowing!

How is Higher Education Governed?

Higher education qualifications are governed by two bodies within Australia:

  1. Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF): The AQF is the national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training. Delivered by the Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment, it incorporates the qualifications from each education and training sector (schools, vocational and higher education) into a single comprehensive national qualifications framework. One of the key objectives of the AQF is to facilitate pathways through formal qualifications.
  2. Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA): TEQSA is Australia’s independent national quality assurance and regulatory agency for higher education. They exist to protect student interests and the reputation of Australia’s higher education sector through a proportionate, risk-reflective approach to quality assurance that supports diversity, innovation and excellence.

TEQSA is responsible for registering all higher education providers and ensuring courses meet the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards).

What Are the Higher Education Levels of Study?

The AQF specifies the standards for educational qualifications in Australia across ten levels of study from 1 to 10.

Study within higher education is split into undergraduate and postgraduate. Undergraduate study starts at level 5 with diploma-level courses, going all the way to postgraduate doctoral degrees at level 10.

Here’s a little breakdown of how this looks:

AQF level Qualification Degree level
10 Higher Doctoral Degree Postgraduate
10 Doctoral Degree Postgraduate
9 Masters Degree (Research) Postgraduate
9 Masters Degree (Coursework) Postgraduate
9 Masters Degree (Extended) Postgraduate
8 Graduate Diploma Postgraduate
8 Graduate Certificate Postgraduate
8 Bachelor Honours Degree Undergraduate
7 Bachelor Degree Undergraduate
6 Associate Degree Undergraduate
6 Advanced Diploma Undergraduate
5 Diploma Undergraduate

What’s the Difference Between a BSc and a BA?

Undergraduate degrees will typically sit under one of two categories:

  1. BA (Bachelor of Arts): Bachelor of Arts degrees can offer a more extensive education as they’re typically less specialised. BA degrees include subjects like philosophy, history, English, languages, visual arts, performing arts, media and communications, and religion.
  2. BSc (Bachelor of Science): Bachelor of Science degrees tend to focus on a specific subject, typically featuring more technical, scientific and mathematical approaches. BSc degrees cover subjects such as computer science, engineering, health, medicine, and social care.

The overall structure of the degrees is pretty similar, but it’s the focus of the content that will differ the most. BA degrees can be more qualitative and creative-led, whereas BSc degrees usually require a more mathematical and analytical approach.

Neither one is ‘better’ than the other – it all depends on the type of subjects you’re interested in and your ideas for your future career.

What is an Honours Program?

After completing your initial degree program, you might decide to undertake an honours program.

Honours is an additional qualification that allows you to build on your undergraduate studies by completing a self-directed research project or research-focused coursework.

Honours programs typically last a year. Some degree programs include a final honours year built into the complete undergraduate degree program. Others include it as an optional program that students can choose to participate in if they want to.

Honours allow you to explore a more niche or specific area related to your main studies that you’re especially interested in and dive deeper into research around this. Under the guidance of an academic supervisor, you’ll choose a thesis topic, create a reading list and identify your research method. The thesis you write documents all your research from proposal through to conclusion.

What Else You Need to Know

Choosing to pursue higher education, your subjects and where to study are all big decisions – and they don’t need to be rushed. Here are three of our tips to help you on this journey:

1. Do What’s Right For YOU: There are many ways to continue into further and higher studies, and the most important thing to think about is whether it’s right for you right now.

Top Tip: Not sure what subjects or career paths might be a good match for you? Trying to decide between a few different options? Our savvy Career Quiz and help you to narrow things down! Check it out right here

2. Give It Time: There’s nothing wrong with needing to take a bit of time off from studying once you finish high school to give yourself some headspace to think about what the best decision for you might be.

Top Tip: Think you’d rather try out the world of work before deciding on what study might be best for you? Our Jobs section has many employer profiles, career opportunities and resources to help you take those first steps!

3. Do Your Research It’s also worth researching universities overall and the programs they offer – not all degree programs are created equally! Do your research before making any big decisions to know what to expect.

Top Tip: The Times Higher Education guide has great information that can help you learn more about the programs different universities are offering and how they rate student satisfaction across a range of measurements.

University and pursuing higher education can be extremely rewarding and a fantastic opportunity to challenge yourself, commit to something you’re interested in, meet new people and grow as a person too!

Whatever decision you make for yourself, we know it’ll be the right one.


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