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Qualifications and their levels

TEC AoG 18815 Plan Your Career Advice pages webtiles v4 Qualifications and their levels

Find out about New Zealand tertiary qualifications and their levels.

Levels of tertiary qualifications

Ten tertiary qualification levels exist in New Zealand, from Level 1 certificates to Level 10 Doctorates. They are:

  • Level 1 certificates
  • Level 2 certificates
  • Level 3 certificates
  • Level 4 certificates
  • Level 5 certificates and diplomas
  • Level 6 certificates and diplomas
  • Level 7 graduate certificates, graduate diplomas and Bachelor’s degrees
  • Level 8 postgraduate certificates, postgraduate diplomas and Bachelor’s Honours degrees
  • Level 9 Master’s degrees
  • Level 10 doctoral degrees.

  • NZQA website - understanding New Zealand qualifications

Information about New Zealand tertiary qualifications should always state their level, as this gives important information about how much work is involved. For example, these certificates in applied science have very different requirements for learners:

NCEA, tertiary qualifications, and the qualifications framework

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) approves secondary and tertiary qualifications, and places them at the appropriate level on the New Zealand Qualifications and Credentials Framework (NZQCF).

National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)

The secondary school qualification National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is part of the NZQCF.

NCEA qualifications range from Level 1 to 3.

Tertiary qualifications while still at school

You may be able to study for tertiary qualifications as well as NCEA while at school.

How study level can affect your earnings and job opportunties

Pay rates 

Generally, the higher the level you qualify at, the higher your pay rate will be once you’re working. 

For example, 10 years after graduating, people with Level 1 to 4 certificates usually earn 15% more than the average income. However, people with Bachelor’s degrees usually earn 67% more than the average income. How much you earn also depends on what subjects you study.

Job opportunties

You don't necessarily need to do a degree to get a job.

Some jobs need a certificate or diploma, and some have no formal entry qualifications


Micro-credentials are a way of recognising your skills and knowledge in a particular area that employers are looking for, such as repairing electric vehicle batteries. Some micro-credentials are registered on NZQCF but they aren’t formal qualifications.

Updated 25 Sep 2023