What’s the difference between a bachelor, diploma and certificate?

What’s in a name? And why is this one named after singledom?

The word ‘bachelor’ brings many a thing to mind.

One, a women competing for a man and media career opportunities at the viewing pleasure of thousands. The other, a Bachelor Degree.

While ironically the Bachelor contestants are after the same thing as students of a Bachelors degree, a job; there are actually some differences between a bachelor degree, a diploma and certificate, that are worth exploring.

Certificate IV

A certificate IV is earned after completing a (usually short) course or series of courses in a particular subject. They’re often referred to as a professional certification or trade certification as there scope of study is relatively narrow.

Certificate IV holders will have factual, technical and some theoretical knowledge on a specific area. Common certificates include arts-specific courses like the Certificate in Digital Photography and trade-based courses like Competency in Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning.

‘Certs’ as they are commonly known are a great way to specialise and achieve in-depth knowledge about a very specific subject or tool of the trade.


The epitome of a middle-man, the diploma is similar to a certificate but often used as an alternative to a Bachelor Degree.

Often awarded through technical schools e.g. a Diploma of Nursing, the Diploma graduate has specialised knowledge, is a little more skilled than a Cert holder but has a little less theoretical knowledge and critical thinking expertise compared to a Bachelor degree holder.

Diplomas are a great way to add a little specification to your existing career too e.g. the Diploma in Construction Management (Extended), or as a way to pave your way to a Bachelor’s Degree if you didn’t quite get the ATAR you wanted thanks to the broad range of topics (i.e. Arts, Business, Psychology, Science, Nursing, Information Technology etc.).

Bachelor Degree

Bachelor Degree holders have a broad knowledge of their area of study as well as the technical know-how to hit the ground running thanks to four years at university.

Bachelor Degree kiddos also tend to have (if you didn’t spend all your time at toga parties) the cognitive, technical and communication skills needed for on-the-job analysis and the ability to create/communicate solutions.

The bachelor degree is known as the ‘door-opener’ degree in that out of the three options listed, it’s the one most likely to help you get a foot into most industries.

How’s this for a Footnote, Here’s the story behind the ‘bachelor’ in Bachelor Degree, in case you were wondering:

The etymology of the ‘bachelor’ in ‘Bachelor’s Degree’ can be tracked to our good friend Latin. Specifically, the Middle Latin term ‘baccalaureus’ which once meant ‘young squire or knight’ i.e. someone in training, or in terms of class hierarchy, someone underneath a knight in terms of nobility and class.

This term was eventually given the French spelling, ‘bacheler’ and an alternative spelling, ‘bachiler’ was created to define an ‘apprentice or student’ i.e. bring the term into the academic sphere as opposed to shields, jousts and horseshoes.

After slowly but surely developing its modern meaning, the final spelling appeared in/around the 18th century creating the word and meaning we’re familiar with today.

Bonus Fact: Baccalaureus, when broken down, is bacca lauri i.e. laurel berry. Which makes sense as Laurels have historically been awarded for academic success or honours.

Want to enrol like, yesterday? Check out our course finder

What’s the difference between a bachelor, diploma and certificate?
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top