Quick Guide to qualification levels for employers


This document outlines basic information about South African tertiary qualifications.

Employers should use these as a guideline only; remember that many other factors make for a good employment candidate, such as attitude and desire to succeed – which can often be gauged from the accolades and achievements in their CV. Achievements in leadership positions, on the sports field, in cultural arenas and ‘giving back’ also tell a lot about the qualities of the applicant.

However, as some general notes about qualifications themselves may be of assistance to employers unfamiliar with the broad range of skills and qualifications out there, this guide is offered as a layman’s resource to be used alongside the formal SAQA notes.

Firstly it is wise to note that all qualifications are not equal, even when they have the same NQF level or name. In general, because higher level qualifications are designed to increasingly test and refine the deductive reasoning (thinking & logic) capabilities of the student, graduates holding more complex, challenging qualifications (NQF 8 – 10) can generally be expected to out-perform those with an easier, less challenging qualification (NQF 5 – 7)in terms of deductive reasoning.

In practice, this means that generally:

• A Diploma focuses on practical, applied skills rather than theoretical and abstract thinking. Diploma graduates can be expected to have mastered their particular skill, but not necessarily the world view surrounding it.
• A Degree is designed to encourage a higher level of abstract thinking and theoretical reasoning than a Diploma – and should be an indication of the ability to manage abstract thinking and deductive reasoning, which in practice translates into the ability to manage “so what?” questions that arise in the work place.
• A Technical University Bachelor’s degree is different from a University Bachelor’s degree as it focuses more on applied practice than abstract theory.
• All degrees are not equal. For example it takes a different kind of effort and skill to pass a Science Degree (maths, science, logic) than it does to pass an Arts degree (creativity, expression, communication).
• Lastly, do remember to verify the person has actually passed their qualification – SA is riddled with people touting fictitious certificates.
• Call GAP for help if uncertain.

Overview of Latest SAQA NQF Levels:
Levels Designation
1 – Grade 9

2 – Grade 10 and National (vocational) Certificates level 2

3 – Grade 11 and National (vocational) Certificates level 3

4 – Grade 12 (National Senior Certificate) and National (vocational) Cert. level 4

5 – Higher Certificates and Advanced National (vocational) Cert.

6 – Diploma and Advanced certificates

7 – Bachelor’s degree and Advanced Diplomas

8 – Honours degree, Post Graduate diploma and Professional Qualifications

9 – Master’s degree

10 – Doctor’s degree

General Guidelines:

  1.  Matric: The term Matric refers to two things:The final year of high school …and the qualification received when one graduates high school.This is the basic minimum university entrance requirement (NQF Level 4).
  2. National Diplomas are entry-level post-matric qualifications. These include:
  • National Higher Certificate; A National Higher Certificate is a qualification that specifically relates to work. It takes two years to complete on a part part-time basis, and a year full-time. This qualification is done after Matric and is an NQF Level 5 qualification, one level lower than a National Diploma.
  • National Diploma; A National Diploma is equivalent to achieving the 2nd year of an undergraduate qualification (Bachelor’s Degree) and is geared to serving graduates with a better knowledge and skill-based experience. Most further education colleges and universities offer a National Diploma qualification which can be used to gain entry into universities at an advanced level. NQF 6.

3.  Bachelors, which includes:

  • Bachelor of Technology; Bachelor of technology degree takes three to four years to complete and is offered by an accredited university or accredited university-level institution. It is an NQF level 7 qualification that emphasizes the practical, rather than theoretical, aspects of skills training. It is awarded to those who have completed a degree program which is obliged to include occupational placements such as internships, in-service training, practice-based classroom courses, or associate degrees.
  • Bachelor degree: A Bachelor degree is awarded to a person who has completed undergraduate study and usually consists of three to five years of study (depending on institution and field of study). It is also offered by an accredited university or accredited university-level institution and is an NQF Level 7 qualification. Unlike the Bachelor of Technology, this degree is often more focused on the theoretical, rather than the practical, aspect of skills training.

4.  University Postgraduate Degree includes:

  • Postgraduate Diploma: A postgraduate diploma is an NQF Level 8 qualification awarded typically after a bachelor’s degree/ diploma, which allow students to study something new or build on the skills and knowledge already gained during their first degree/ diploma.
  • Honours Degree: An Honours Degree is also an NQF Level 8 qualification and is the continuation of a completed Bachelor degree program in the same field. It usually takes a minimum of one year of study but may also take longer. It is essential for students who have the ultimate goal to study towards a two- or three-year masters’ degree qualification.
  • Masters’ Degree: A masters’ degree is an NQF Level 9 qualification and is granted to individuals who have mastered a specific field of study, or area of professional practice. These graduates have an advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics and are capable of analysis, critical evaluation, and/or professional application. They generally have the ability to solve complex problems and think independently. To complete the degree, they are required to formulate a topic and develop a thesis on this topic – doing all the research and analysis using the above skills.
  • Doctorate Degree: A doctorate is an NQF Level 10 qualification, the highest level of academic degree. It takes four years to complete and qualifies the holder to teach at the university level in their specific field, or to work in their specific profession.

For more information and further reading, visit www.gogap.co.za