Tertiary qualifications explained

Find out more about different levels of study on offer at Unitec and work out which qualification is right for you.

What is a programme?

A programme of study leads to a qualification, such as a certificate or bachelors degree, and is usually made up of a number of courses.  Unitec offers programmes at several different levels from certificates right up to masters and doctoral degrees.

Certificates

Certificates generally take between six months to a year to complete if studying full-time. Certificates provide a broad introduction to a range of skills in a particular subject area, or can provide entry into trades or service occupations, or into higher-level tertiary study.

Diplomas

A diploma generally takes between one and two years to complete. Diplomas are often required for entry to advanced trade, technical and some professional occupations.

Degrees

Bachelors degrees generally take three years of full-time study, although some can take four or five years.

What is a course?

A course  - sometimes referred to as a paper - generally takes one semester to complete and consists of lectures and tutorials. In one year of full-time study, you will usually be required to complete eight courses, or four each semester. Each course is worth a certain number of credits, which you gain once you have completed the course. These contribute towards the total amount of credits required in order to complete your qualification.

What is an elective?

An elective is a course that is not essential to complete the programme you are enrolled in. You usually take electives in addition to the compulsory courses you need to finish your programme. Not all programmes have electives. In some programmes you will be required to choose between certain electives.

How do I know if I meet the entry requirements?

Each programme has its own set of admission requirements and these are displayed on every programme. Admission requirements explain what is required in order to gain entry to the programme for example any qualification requirements or English language requirements a programme may have.

The table below gives a general guide to the NCEA requirements for Unitec certificate, diploma and bachelors degree programmes, however there are some exceptions so please check the specific admission requirements for each programme. For secondary school qualifications that pre-date NCEA, please see admission requirements.

NCEA achievementsUnitec programmeApprox. programme length
NCEA level 1Certificate6 months - 1 year
NCEA level 2Diploma1 - 2 years
NCEA level 3Bachelors degree3 - 5 years

For information on what is required to pass the NCEA qualifications shown above, please visit the NZQA website.

What if I can’t get into my chosen programme?

Unlike many other tertiary providers, Unitec offers programmes at several different levels. If you don’t meet the entry requirements for a particular programme, it may be possible for you to staircase your way up by completing one or more lower level programmes first. Our Foundation Education programmes provide a good starting point for those wishing to progress to higher-level study.