The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is a national policy guide for regulated qualifications in the Australian education and training system. It plays a crucial role in defining the essential characteristics and learning outcomes of different types of qualifications across various sectors, including senior secondary education, vocational education and training (VET), and higher education.

Understanding the AQF

The AQF serves as a comprehensive national qualification framework, bringing together qualifications from each sector into a unified system. It provides a clear structure for understanding the levels of qualifications, their associated learning outcomes, and pathways for progression. This framework is essential for both domestic and international students considering education and training opportunities in Australia.

Levels of Qualifications

AQF Level 1 to 4: Certificate Programs

At the lower end of the AQF, we have certificate programs that equip students with foundational knowledge and skills in specific areas. The AQF levels from 1 to 4 include the following qualifications:

Certificate I (AQF Level 1): This level offers basic vocational skills and knowledge.

Certificate II (AQF Level 2): It provides further vocational skills and prepares individuals for employment in specific industries.

Certificate III (AQF Level 3): This level builds on the foundation of the previous certificates and offers more specialized vocational skills.

Certificate IV (AQF Level 4): It provides a broader range of skills and prepares individuals for both employment and further education.

Certificate programs are popular choices for individuals seeking entry-level positions or exploring vocational pathways.

The AQF is structured into ten levels, ranging from Certificate I to a doctoral degree. Each level represents a specific set of skills, knowledge, and competencies. Here is an overview of the higher education levels within the AQF:

AQF Level 5: Diploma

A Diploma qualification at Level 5 signifies a comprehensive understanding of a specific field of study. It provides a strong foundation for further academic pursuits or employment opportunities.

AQF Level 6: Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s Degree at Level 6 is an undergraduate qualification that offers in-depth knowledge and specialized skills in a particular discipline. It typically takes three to four years of full-time study to complete.

AQF Level 7: Bachelor’s Honours Degree

A Bachelor’s Honours Degree at Level 7 is an extension of the standard Bachelor’s Degree, incorporating additional research or advanced coursework components. It is an opportunity for students to delve deeper into their chosen field and develop critical research skills.

 AQF Level 8: Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma

Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma qualifications at Level 8 provide advanced knowledge and skills beyond the Bachelor’s Degree level. These programs are designed for individuals seeking to enhance their expertise in a specific area or transition into a new field.

 AQF Level 9: Master’s Degree (Coursework and Research)

Master’s Degrees at Level 9 offer both coursework and research pathways. Coursework-based programs provide advanced knowledge and professional skills, while research-based programs focus on independent research and the development of new knowledge in a specific field.

AQF Level 10: Doctoral Degree

The Doctoral Degree at Level 10 represents the highest level of academic achievement. It involves original research, leading to the production of a substantial thesis or body of work that contributes to the advancement of knowledge in a particular field.

AQF Qualifications Issuance Policy

AQF Qualification Titles

Titles of AQF qualifications are the representation of the qualification type, level and field of study/discipline of the qualification and provide the basis for national and international recognition. AQF qualifications will have titles that unambiguously identify the qualification type, level and field of study/discipline as follows:

AQF LevelQualification TypeQualification Title
Senior Secondary Certificate
of Education
Titles will vary across jurisdictions; the use of the titles will be
accompanied by the statement: ‘(Certificate Title) is a Senior
Secondary Certificate of Education within the Australian
Qualifications Framework.’
1Certificate ICertificate I (Field of study/discipline)
2Certificate IICertificate II (Field of study/discipline)
3Certificate IIICertificate III (Field of study/discipline)
4Certificate IVCertificate IV (Field of study/discipline)
5DiplomaDiploma (Field of study/discipline)
6Advanced DiplomaAdvanced Diploma (Field of study/discipline)
7Associate Degree Associate Degree  (Field of study/discipline)
8Bachelor DegreeBachelor (Field of study/discipline)
8Bachelor Honours DegreeBachelor (Field of study/discipline) (Honours)
8Graduate CertificateGraduate Certificate (Field of study/discipline)
8Graduate DiplomaGraduate Diploma (Field of study/discipline)
9Masters Degree (Research)Master (Field of study/discipline)
9Masters Degree (Coursework)Master (Field of study/discipline)
9Masters Degree (Extended)Master (Field of study/discipline)
For exceptions that may be used, see below*
10Doctoral DegreeDoctor (Field of study/discipline)
10Higher Doctoral DegreeDoctor (Field of study/discipline)


i The use of the qualification title ‘Juris Doctor’ is permitted for a Masters Degree (Extended) for legal practice.

ii The use of the qualification title ‘Doctor of …’ is permitted for a Masters Degree (Extended) for five professions: medical practice; physiotherapy; dentistry; optometry and veterinary practice.

iii  Further exceptions may be permitted in accordance with the AQF Qualification Type Addition and  Removal Policy

Pathways and Flexibility

The AQF emphasizes the importance of pathways to facilitate seamless transitions between qualifications and the education sector. It enables individuals to progress from one level to another, promoting lifelong learning and continuous professional development.

The framework also acknowledges the diverse needs and aspirations of students, allowing for flexibility in designing educational pathways. Students can choose from a wide range of programs, including full-time, part-time, online, or blended learning options, tailored to their individual circumstances and preferences.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

The AQF recognizes the value of prior learning and experiences gained through formal and informal education, work, and life experiences. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) enables individuals to receive credit or exemptions for certain units or modules within a qualification based on their existing knowledge and skills.

Quality Assurance and Regulation

The AQF operates within a robust quality assurance framework to maintain the integrity and standards of qualifications. Regulatory bodies, such as the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), ensure that higher education providers adhere to the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards). These standards ensure that learning outcomes align with the relevant AQF levels and promote excellence in education and training.


The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) serves as a comprehensive guide for regulated qualifications in Australia. It provides a transparent and nationally recognized system for understanding the levels of qualifications and their associated learning outcomes. By embracing pathways, flexibility, and recognition of prior learning, the AQF supports individuals in their educational journey and fosters a skilled and adaptable workforce.

By understanding the AQF and its levels, students can make informed decisions about their education and training pathways. Whether pursuing vocational skills or advanced research, the AQF ensures that qualifications in Australia are recognized and valued both nationally and internationally.

For more information about the Australian Qualifications Framework, please visit the official AQF website at

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute official advice. It is always recommended to refer to the official AQF documentation and consult with educational institutions for specific qualification requirements and pathways.

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