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Higher Education Qualifications or Degrees in South Africa

Higher Education and Training, also called as Tertiary Education, in South Africa includes education for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, certificates, diplomas, and doctoral degrees.

General Higher Education Qualifications in South Africa

 Bachelor’s Degree-

Bachelor's degrees such as the B.Sc, B.A or B.Com are usually awarded after three years of study while degrees in certain professional fields, such as pharmacy, law, medicine, dentistry, engineering, fine art, music, and architecture requires a study of  4-6 years. 

For admittance to a Bachelor degree programme, students must hold a high school completion certificate. A matriculation exemption is needed.  Students must have taken 4 or more subjects from the following groups for at least 3 years-English, Math, a Second Language generally Afrikaans, Natural Sciences, Social Science-Geography and/or History with a choice to take one of the following: Computer studies, Accounting, Biblical Studies,  Art, Technical Drawing, or Music.

 Honors Degree-

This degree requires one additional year of study following a regular 3-year bachelor degree programme. This degree is also known as postgraduate bachelor’s degree. Admittance to an honors degree course of study usually requires an above average level of academic skills and accomplishments in the bachelor’s degree. Pupils in the Humanities, Commerce and Science who want to opt for a Master’s Degree are required to go for a Bachelor Honors Degree, which is awarded after an additional year of study. 

 Master’s Degree-

This degree programme lasts for 1-2 years of full-time study and requires a bachelor’s degree for admittance into a master degree programme. 

Students are required to complete a thesis in order to obtain the degree. The Master Degree is awarded by both Universities and Universities of Technology. It requires at least 1-2 years research after having achieved Honors Degree in the case of universities, and a Bachelor Degree in the case of Universities of Technology. A few of the universities Master Degree, like the Master Degree in Business (MBusAdministration), are partly taught and partly research-based degrees, where the thesis must be linked to an industry or subject specific issue or topic.

 Doctorate Degree-

This degree generally last for 2 years and requires a master degree certificate for admittance. Students are required to complete a dissertation in order to get this degree.  The Doctorate degree is awarded by Universities as well as Universities of Technology and is research-based. 

Traditional Universities: Academic Qualifications

 Bachelor’s degrees: This degree lasts for 3 years and Bcom, BSc, BSocSC, BA are awarded to the students upon completion of the degree programme.

Other Career-Oriented Bachelor’s Degree: This degree lasts for 4-6 years depending upon the course of study. BEng, BA (Ed), BArch (Architecture), and medicine are awarded upon completion of the degree programme. Traditional universities in South Africa also provide Honours degrees that requires one additional year of study following the regular 3-year bachelor degree programme. 

Masters Degree: This degree programme lasts for 1-2 years and requires a bachelor degree for admittance. 

Doctoral Degree: This degree programme lasts for 2 years and requires a Master degree for admittance. The Students are also required to complete an original research thesis to obtain the degree.  

Universities of Technology: Academic Qualifications

Pupils enrolled in Universities of Technology in South Africa can receive certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas of one year,  4-year Bachelor’s  Honors degrees, such as BTech ,Architecture, and so on, with advance exit points for attaining diploma-level qualifications; and postgraduate and doctoral degrees or enter a career at an earlier stage.

Higher Education Qualifications: At a Glance

National Certificate

This certificate is achieved after successful completion of the senior certificate or trade certification.
  • Duration: 2 years
  • National Qualification Framework Level: NQF 5

National Diploma

This credential is achieved after successful completion of the senior certificate or trade certification.
  • Duration: 2 years
  • National Qualification Framework Level: NQF 5

Higher Diploma

This qualification is achieved after completion of Matric, i.e. 12 years of study. 
  • Duration: 3 years
  • National Qualification Framework Level: NQF 6

Bachelor Degree

This degree requires Senior Certificate and Matriculation Endorsements on their certificates. 
  • Duration: 3 years
  • National Qualification Framework Level: NQF 6

Professional Qualification

Qualification received by a professional organization of community experts
  • National Qualification Framework Level: NQF 7

Post Graduate - Honors Degree

This degree is achieved after bachelor’s qualification. 
  • Duration: 1 year (plus 3-year bachelor)
  •  National Qualification Framework Level: NQF 7

Post Graduate - Masters Degree

This degree is achieved after honors qualification. 
  • Duration: 1-2 years
  •  National Qualification Framework Level: NQF 8

Post Graduate - Doctorate Degree

This degree is achieved after Master qualification
  • Duration: 2 years
  • National Qualification Framework Level: NQF 8
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