State Library Victoria

Study Options in Australia

Course Options

Australian universities, colleges and TAFES offer a range of courses across a number of disciplines, which include law, science, medicine, engineering and technology to humanities, hospitality, accounting, commerce and management.

Gaining admission into Australia’s best higher education institutions can be a challenging process. However, with the right advice, guidance and direction, you can maximise your opportunities and secure admission to the courses and education providers that will best align with your educational objectives and future aspirations.

Australia’s higher education framework is renowned for its versatility and inclusivity. Even in cases where students do not automatically meet the entry requirements for their preferred courses, Australian higher education institutions offer pathway courses and alternative admission procedures to allow every potential student an opportunity to prove themselves and secure their pathway to progress.

The following outlines the different options available to international students and the significance of each course of study.

TAFES, Colleges and Pathway Institutes

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes are technical colleges, and are the largest provider of vocational and education training (VET) in Australia. TAFES are Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) that are funded by the government.

Students completing a TAFE course have traditionally received VET certificates, diplomas, apprenticeships and traineeships. In more recent years, many TAFE institutions have also become technical universities, expanding their educational service offering to include higher education degrees that are on par with universities, but with an emphasis on practical and vocational learning in an industry-specific, skills-development context.

If you are seeking to enter the workforce with job-ready skills and qualifications and build a strong foundation to continue your higher education, studying at a TAFE institute may be the right pathway for you.

Most universities have affiliated colleges and institutes that provide alternative pathways to admission.

For students who do not automatically qualify for admission to university-level programs, these colleges offer a streamlined pathway to university admission through foundational studies at the Certificate Diploma and Advanced Diploma-level that are geared to up-skill and equip students with required competencies and pre-requisite qualifications to secure their admission into undergraduate programs.

Offering highly interactive, knowledge-based study options in a university-style setting, completing college level courses allow students to gain admission to their preferred course through recognised alternative pathways and often support their ability to gain exemptions from entry-level/first year subjects.

Undergraduate (Bachelors)

Undergraduate courses in Australia generally involve 3-4 years of study and lead to an AQF Level 7 qualification.

Students are required to have either completed high school, foundation studies or a diploma or advanced diploma in order to gain admission to an undergraduate degree.

An undergraduate degree is often a minimum qualification for admission, certification, registration and accreditation for most professional lines of practice. Most Australian universities offer undergraduate degrees that are accredited by the relevant State/Territory and Federal bodies, and provide students with the core foundational experience and competencies to gain entry into their respective career paths.

Students have the option of broadening their focus and opportunities by undertaking double degrees at the undergraduate level, which allow for 2 major areas of specialisation.

Following completion of an undergraduate degree, students receiving a distinction average or grade point of over 75% can undertake a further year of research-based study to obtain a Bachelor Honours Degree (AQF Level 8), which is equivalent to a graduate diploma.

This requires students to complete an additional year of research-based study and submit a thesis. A Bachelor Honours Degree is a prestigious qualification that highlights your academic prowess and renders high-performing students eligible to continue on to a Doctoral program without having to complete a Masters degree.

Postgraduate studies

Students considering postgraduate studies in Australia benefit from a wide range of options. These include Graduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas, Masters Degrees, and PhD or Doctoral Degrees.

Graduate Certificate/ Graduate Diploma

A Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma are postgraduate (AQF Level 8) courses with a focus on practice-oriented, industry-specific and workplace-oriented skills.

A Graduate Certificate takes six months to complete, whilst Graduate Diploma often take one year (or less in accelerated programs). These qualifications expand students’ existing knowledge and skillsets to enable them to further their learning and develop their professional skill sets. As Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma are embedded courses, the units completed through these courses can be credited towards a Masters program and are increasingly in demand within the workforce due to the job-ready status of successful graduates

To undertake a Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma, students are required to have completed an undergraduate degree. Graduate Certificates and Diplomas are administered by universities and industry-specific higher education providers.


A Masters degree in Australia can range from one to two years in duration, and students are required to have (at minimum) completed their Bachelor degree (and in some cases satisfy pre-requisite work experience requirements) to be eligible to enrol in a Masters program. A Masters is an AQF Level 9 qualification.

Students who have completed a Bachelor (Honours) degree can usually complete their Masters degree within a one-year timeframe.

Australia provides three pathways for completing a Masters degree;

Masters by Coursework

A postgraduate degree by coursework requires students to undertake a set of core and elective units. Learning is class-room based, with students either having to complete assignments or sit exams, or a combination of the two. Some postgraduate degrees by coursework may also give students the opportunity to undertake a minor thesis project involving independent research.

Masters by Research

A postgraduate degree by research requires students to undertake independent research and submit a thesis. Students are guided by their supervisor and may be required to undertake units relevant to their research area and develop key research skills.

Masters (Extended)

A Masters degree (extended) prepares students professionally through structured learning combined with independent research and practice-related learning. This degree is suited to students wishing to pursue a career in medicine, law or social work for example.

While students can pursue a field of study different to their undergraduate degree for their Masters program, some degrees may require some basic knowledge of the field as a prerequisite.

Doctoral degrees and PhDs

Doctoral Degrees/PhDs in Australia are AQF Level 10 qualifications, which are the highest level recognised by the Australian Qualifications Framework. The focus is on independent research work and takes 3 to 4 years to complete, with submission of a final thesis to an academic body. The doctoral candidate is supported by a university appointed supervisor, with whom the research contents are discussed and who oversee and support the PhD candidate’s progress.

To be admitted to a PhD program, students must have completed a Masters degree in Australia or a Bachelor Honours Degree.

In Australian universities, the application process requires students to prepare a research proposal to their selected institution, select their preferred supervisor from the university’s list and also seek financial support through grants and scholarships to support their study. The extensive, high-level guidance and direction provided by their supervisors allow students to develop exceptional, in-depth knowledge on their selected focus areas and support their advancement within the upper echelons of their respective industries and field(s) of specialisation.