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What Are Tertiary Qualifications?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Tertiary qualifications are a form of professional qualification often indicated on a résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) that are received after secondary school. This term is often used by professionals in Australia, though related concepts can be seen in many countries that have fairly similar educational systems. In general, primary school is considered to be the education that students receive in their youth, while secondary school is attended during adolescence and young adulthood. Tertiary qualifications come from the completion of a program at a tertiary school during adulthood, which are typically considered vocational or technical schools as well as colleges and universities.

The basic idea behind “tertiary qualifications” stems from the way in which the educational system is divided in many countries, including the US and Australia. These countries divide the types of schools students often attend throughout a lifetime into three basic categories. Primary schools, also called elementary schools in the US, are attended by students when they are children and during youth until about the age of adolescence or young adulthood. At this point, students attend secondary schools, which are also called high schools in the US, for several years before completing the secondary level of education.

Those educational institutions and opportunities beyond the completion of secondary school, therefore, make up tertiary education facilities which grant people degrees and certificates that often make up tertiary qualifications. In the US, this type of education is usually listed on a résumé or CV to indicate the degree or other certification someone received. The term “tertiary qualifications” in Australia is often used to refer to the same type of education and the completion of a similar curriculum. A number of different degrees and certificates make up these qualifications, which are divided in the Australian educational system into numerous levels that can be completed.

The first few levels of tertiary qualifications are usually intended for professionals working in technical fields in which certification may be preferable to a degree. Those wishing to work as an electrician, for example, might receive a certificate from a vocational school that is a part of his or her tertiary education. Additional levels of tertiary qualifications beyond that are used for students who complete degrees from a college or university, beginning with a bachelor’s degree and moving up through honors degrees and various types of master’s degrees. The highest level of qualification in Australia is reserved for students who complete a doctoral degree in a particular field.

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