The difference between a certificate, diploma and a degree?

Navigating Your Future

Ever wondered what the difference is between Short Learning Programmes, Occupational Certificates and Higher Education Qualifications?

At Boston, we offer prospective students a range of options, including Short Learning Programmes, Occupational Certificates and Higher Education Qualifications. These options empower students to plot and navigate their futures.

Deciding one’s future is never very easy. How does one decide what path to take? Occupational? Or, Higher Education? What’s the difference between them? While both Occupational and Higher Education programmes offer students better prospects for their future careers, there are some significant differences between them.

The differences between certificates, diplomas and degrees are highlighted below:

Short Learning Programmes and Occupational Certificates:

Programmes offered in the Short Learning and Occupational spheres are designed to be skills-based with an industry focus for a particular job. They are often associated with a trade, occupation, or profession and incorporate practical experience supported by a solid knowledge foundation. The completion of a short learning or occupational programme enables entry into the job market in a shorter period. Short Learning Programmes are non-credit bearing whereas Occupational programmes are accredited by delegated bodies of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). One of the benefits with Short Learning Programmes offered by Boston is year round registration and immediate commencement of studies, enabling you to start preparing for advancement without delay.

The options available in the Higher Education space are numerous. At Boston, we currently have accreditation with the Council on Higher Education for twelve programmes: one Bachelors, seven Diplomas and four Higher Certificates. Each of these qualifications carries slightly different entry requirements, but all of them require an NSC (National Senior Certificate).


Higher Certificate:

The Higher Certificate programmes on offer at Boston are vocationally focused and are designed to give matriculants with an NSC or NC(V) (National Certificate (Vocational) entrance into higher education. The strong industry-oriented focus is also well supported by exposure to important knowledge sets, conceptual tools and practical techniques relevant to the qualification.

Higher Certificate in HIV/AIDS Counselling and Management, Higher Certificate in Marketing Practice, Higher Certificate in Commerce in Human Resource Development and more certificates to choose from are offered at Boston City Campus.


Diploma programmes on offer at Boston are also vocationally oriented but are designed to develop greater depth and specialisation of knowledge. While students are exposed to deeper levels of knowledge, that knowledge set is taught with the application of practical skills in the workplace in mind. Diplomas at Boston are three-year programmes.

Diploma in Business Management, Diploma in Financial Accounting, Diploma in Systems Development and more diplomas are available to choose from at Boston City Campus.


Bachelor’s degrees provide students with a thorough, well-rounded, education that exposes students to the theories, methodologies, and knowledge sets associated with a field of study or discipline. Students who complete a Bachelor’s degree are well positioned for the world of professional work. While more academic, the Bachelor’s degree is a solid starting point for developing analytical skills, integrative skills and competencies needed for on-the-job decision-making. Students enrolling in the Bachelor’s degree are committing to a minimum of three years (full-time).

Visit Boston City Campus online to see what degree programs are available.

Call Boston Nelspruit on 013 752 4560 or email [email protected]


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