Home Education Tips How lower level qualifications can help your career

How lower level qualifications can help your career

How lower level qualifications can help your career

Many students enrol in vocational education at Certificate IV or Diploma level, so what’s the value of Certificate I and II level courses? For young school-leavers, these qualifications represent an early boost to their career, according to an NCVER research paper.

Lower level qualifications such as Certificate I and II courses do not have any clear advantages for graduates looking for a salary boost, but these programs can improve job prospects and are effective primers for further study, according to a paper by Damian Oliver.

Published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), ‘Lower level qualifications as a stepping stone for young people’ investigates the benefits of Certificate I and II courses. Compared to Certificate IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma qualifications, which studies repeatedly show economic returns in the form of higher pay, lower level qualifications have a negligible effect on salary/wage.

Oliver found, however, that Certificate I and II programs did provide a number of less tangible benefits including giving students foundational skills and preparing them for higher level qualifications, often in cases where the candidate did not meet the initial educational entry requirements (for example completion of Australian Year 10 or Year 12); in other words providing that ‘stepping stone’ across the educational divide.

The researcher compared non-trainee and non-apprentice Certificate I and II graduates two years after completion and at age 26 with young people from similar situations who had not completed nor undertook study during the research period.

Oliver found that two years after completing a Certificate I or II qualification:

  • Young males were more likely to have undertaken an apprenticeship or traineeship, when compared with other individuals with similar background characteristics.
  • Young female graduates are more likely to be employed and to have undertaken an apprenticeship or traineeship when compared with other similar females.


At age 26, however, the advantages of a lower level qualification were more pronounced for males than females with females in the counterpart (non-graduate) group having caught up with the female graduates while the male graduates maintained a benefit gap compared to non-graduate males.

The findings are heartening for those students undertaking study at Certificate I, II and even III level, particularly as the benefits of completion are strongest for the most disadvantaged learners. I have previously written about entry requirements and I believe that lower level qualifications are an excellent way for students who may not have been suited to achieving in a high school environment to gain the confidence and foundational skills to undertake vocational education at a level that will be meaningful for their career.

Download the paper ‘Lower level qualifications as a stepping stone for young people


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