Study Options

Certificates, Diplomas, Degrees - What's the difference?

There are a range of study levels available at university. Certificates and diplomas provide a 'taster' or introduction into a certain field of work. Most certificates and diplomas take one year to complete if you are studying full time. Certificates and diplomas are also good bridging courses to qualify for some of the specific health degrees. For example, you can complete a Diploma in Social Work as an introduction course to prepare you for completing a Degree in Social Work.

Degrees are a level higher than certificates and diplomas. They tend to take three to four years on average if you study full-time. Once you've completed your degree you are then qualified to work in a specific area or career. For most health careers you will find that you will need to complete a degree in order to work in the field.

Full time v.s. Part time Study

In some degrees you can study part time. This means you can take a minimum of one paper per semester. It will take longer than three years to complete your degree but it means you can fit your studies around your lifestyle, work and whānau commitments. It's important to know that not every degree can be studied part time. Degrees like nursing and physiotherapy must be studied full time due to hospital placements. To study full time you must complete seven or eight papers a year depending on the course. This means your degree is finished in a shorter time frame. However, it also means you are unable to work fulltime due to class commitments.

Polytechnic, Wānanga, University - What's right for me?

You may have heard different terms being used for various tertiary institutes. Polytechnics tend to provide courses that are more practical and are offered at certificate, diploma, degree and post graduate diploma level. You can study to be a paramedic, a radiation therapist or a nurse at Polytechnic. Wānanga are tertiary institutes which offer a range of courses within a kaupapa Māori setting. Most Māori find wānanga a very supportive environment to study in, and classes tend to be smaller than most universities. Wānanga offer health degrees such as nursing and social work. Universities offer a range of qualifications from certificate to post graduate level. Most universities have an academic focus on their courses. There are loads of support services for Māori students on campus. They can help you with study assistance and cultural support. Most health degrees are offered at universities throughout Aotearoa.

Distance Learning

Some universities offer extramural studies where you can study from home or online. Often there is only one compulsory contact time on campus a month. Outside of that time you can study wherever you like! If you have a young whānau at home, limited travel, or a disability this could be a good study option for you. Extramural studies are only offered for certain degrees and courses. Have a look at your university's website to see what study options you have in your course.

Special Programmes

Sometimes, depending on the type of course and location within Aotearoa, there are some special programmes offered to help support people into further study.

Get Ahead!

In some degrees you may not have to start from square one when you shift careers. Some universities recognise prior learning, or prior work experience in particular fields. For example if you are studying to be a social worker some tertiary institutes will recognise any previous learning or work you have already completed. Depending on your situation you may be able to fast-track to second year in some courses. Talk to your tertiary provider to see if you can get ahead.

Post Graduate Studies

Already working in health? Want to further your qualification to post graduate level? There are several funding opportunities available through your employer and outside agencies. Talk to your manager about what funding is available to further your career and check out our Scholarships Database.