Education Levels

About Education levels

All courses and programmes at universities and university colleges are divided into three levels: bachelor's (first cycle), master's (second cycle) and doctoral (third cycle). All levels build on the level before. Each course or programme has entry requirements. As a beginner, you'll apply to courses and programmes at the bachelor's level.

Education levels

Study levels (cycles) and the Bologna Process

As a member of the European Union, Sweden conforms to a number of guidelines for higher education in Europe. These guidelines, called the Bologna Process, help all countries describe higher education in the same way. By following the Bologna Process, Swedish universities have similar levels of education, credit schemes, and degree descriptions as other countries in the European Union.

According to the Bologna Process, courses and programmes are to be organised into three different levels called cycles - first, second and third. First cycle is for the most part equivalent to what is known as the undergraduate level, or bachelor's level of studies. Second cycle corresponds to graduate level or master's level studies. Third cycle corresponds to doctoral or PhD level studies. Different types of qualifications can be offered at all three cycles.  

Bachelor's level (First cycle)

At this level, you start studying a course or programme in a subject area that doesn't require previous university studies. It is for beginners to higher education. Most programmes offered at the bachelor's level in Sweden are 3 years of full-time studies in length and award 180 credits.

Master's level (Second cycle)

In order to study a programme at the master's level, you must have successfully completed a Swedish 3-year degree at 'grundnivå' (bachelor's level), a bachelor's degree from a foreign country, or a corresponding qualification.

If you wish to take freestanding courses (instead of being admitted to a study programme) at the master's level, you must have studied the course at the bachelor's level. Here, there is no requirement that one must first complete an entire degree at the bachelor's level.

Doctoral level (Third cycle)

In order to study at the doctoral level, you must have completed a degree at the master's level. 

Degrees, diplomas, certificates...the list of tertiary qualifications available to you is long and extensive. Whether it's your first year out of secondary school or your twentieth, whether you're embarking on your first degree or your fifth – finding the right course to help you achieve your personal and professional goals can be confusing. But don't worry, at Swinburne Online we'll see you through. 

Have a high school diploma? You might be wowed by Wyoming’s large share of occupations for people with that level of education. Do you have a master’s degree? Start dreaming of Delaware, where you may have more options than in other states.

The types of jobs available vary by state. Some states have a higher concentration of jobs in occupations that typically require a doctoral or professional degree. Others have a higher concentration of jobs in occupations that typically require a different level of education, from less education than a high school diploma to a master’s degree.

A man pointing to a map of the United States in a classroom
Of course, broad education levels in jobs is just one way to look at employment opportunities by state. The specific field in which you have your education is important, too—especially for workers with higher levels of education. And job prospects vary by state for a number of reasons. For example, some states have more jobs or higher wages in a particular industry.

But state data showing job share by education level may be both interesting and helpful for jobseekers pondering career choice and geographic location. The first section of this article describes states with high concentrations of jobs in occupations that typically require one of several levels of education. The second section explains the data used for the analysis. And the third section suggests sources for more information.

This analysis focuses on the percentage of jobs, rather than on the number, because at every education level, heavily populated states (such as Texas and Illinois) have more jobs than less populated ones (such as Rhode Island and Alaska). Although the District of Columbia is a city and not a state, it is counted among the states analyzed in this article, for a total of 51.

Jobs by education level

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) designates 1 of the following 8 education levels that workers typically need to enter an occupation:

  • Less than high school
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Some college, no degree
  • Postsecondary non-degree award
  • Associate’s degree
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s degree
  • Doctoral or professional degree

BLS education and training designations include on-the-job training and work experience in a related occupation, as well as education. This article analyzes data only by education level because it is often the first requirement that jobseekers must meet when applying for an entry-level position in an occupation.

The chart shows the proportion of jobs nationwide in May 2013 that were in occupations at each of the education levels. About 84 percent of jobs fall into three categories: high school diploma or equivalent, less education than a high school diploma, and bachelor’s degree.

States have similar overall patterns. For example, high school-designated occupations make up the largest percentage of jobs in all the states, just as they do for the country as a whole. However, the specific occupations within a given education level differ from one state to another.

Tables in the sections that follow show data in 10 states with the highest concentrations of jobs in occupations at each level of education. Accompanying text gives examples of occupations with employment rates that are higher in a particular state than they are nationally. The tables and text also provide the median annual wage for occupations at each education level for comparison with the national median for all occupations ($35,080).

Some states—including Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, and Oregon—don’t show up in any of these lists. In these states, the concentrations of jobs by education level are usually similar to those nationwide.

Less education than a high school diploma

In May 2013, about 27 percent of all U.S. jobs were in occupations that typically require less education than a high school diploma for entry. These jobs had a median annual wage of $20,350. BLS designates 100 occupations with this level of education. The states shown in table 1 have high concentrations of jobs in those occupations.

What is Online Education Levels?

Online education utilises breakthrough web technologies to deliver academic courses. When undertaking online study, students may use a range of tools such as webinars, videos, chat sessions and e-texts to deliver content. Assessments can be undertaken synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous learning refers to situations where online participation from a student is required at a certain time. This may involve a live discussion session with an online tutor, or a presentation which is only available to be viewed at that time. Asynchronous learning involves study where the event is not in a live format, but it may still have a loose timeframe, for example: an assessment that will be accessable at any time over a week long period. Both of these learning styles are utilised to their optimum when studying with Swinburne Online.

What is Distance Education?
Distance education (sometimes known as learning by correspondence) is a broad term that describes education delivered to a student who is in a separate location to the source of the academic content. This method of education has been around since the 1800s and in comparison with online education, which is offered by Swinburne Online, it is often viewed by professionals as outdated. The mode of delivery traditionally involves sending the course materials and assessments back and forth between the student and learning institution in hard copy. Many distance education programs require the student to attend classes or workshops on campus at some stage during the semester.

What is VET?
Vocational Education and Training (VET) is focused on providing students with specific job related and technical skills. Qualifications include certificates diploma’s and advanced diplomas and will take the student less time to complete than a university degree. Nationally recognised VET qualifications cover a wide range of industries, from business and management to trades, retail and hospitality.
Vocational Education and Training (VET) is focused on providing students with specific job related and technical skills. Qualifications include certificates diploma’s and advanced diplomas and will take the student less time to complete than a university degree. Nationally recognised VET qualifications cover a wide range of industries, from business and management to trades, retail and hospitality.

What is TAFE? 
Technical and Further Education (TAFE) is the term used to describe certain state-administered education institutions. Such institutions provide Vocational Education and Training (VET) and qualifying courses under the National Training System, Australian Qualifications Framework and Australian Quality Training Network. A Registered Training Organisation (RTO) is an organisation accredited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) which is the national regulator for Australia's vocational education and training sector. ASQA regulates courses and training providers to ensure nationally approved quality standards are met.

What is a Certificate?
Certificates are the most basic qualification available to secondary school students and beyond. Offered by TAFEs, Community Education Centres and Registered Training Providers, Certificates I, II, III and IV will prepare you for employment or further education and training.  

  • Certificate I: Will give you skills when beginning a profession or help you gain community involvement.
  • Certificate II: You'll build on knowledge and skills to work in a defined context and undertake further learning.
  • Certificate III: You'll learn more in-depth theoretical and practical skills for work or further learning.
  • Certificate IV: You'll learn theoretical and practical skills for specialised work or further learning.


What is a Diploma?
Completing a Diploma or Advanced Diploma certificate will give you practical skills for work as well as the opportunity to progress to another qualification. At Swinburne, you’ll be taught by experienced teachers and have access to equipment used in industry to help prepare you for your future.

Diploma: Graduates at this level will have specialised knowledge and skills for skilled/paraprofessional work and/or further learning.
Advanced Diploma: Graduates at this level will have specialised knowledge and skills for highly skilled/paraprofessional work and/or further learning.

What is a Bachelor Degree?
Bachelor degrees are offered by universities and are presented to you when you complete an undergraduate course of study. Depending on the field of study, the duration of the degree can range from three to five years of full-time study (or part-time equivalent). Most bachelor degrees are recognised worldwide. A Bachelor degree teaches you skills such as research and analytical thinking and is recognised as a higher qualification to diplomas or certificates. Where a Diploma will give you the skills you need for your job, a Bachelor will set you up for your career. 

What is an Honours Degree?
You can graduate with honours from a Bachelor Degree by undertaking an additional year of study, generally requiring you to complete a research project and submit a thesis, thereby positioning you for further research studies. 

What is a Graduate Certificate?
Completing a Graduate Certificate will help you upgrade your qualifications or give you advanced practical skills required in specialist industries. If you haven't earned a bachelor degree, many programs may allow you entry provided you have sufficient relevant work experience in your chosen field. Graduate Certificates generally require a commitment of six months full-time study, or an equivalent part-time commitment. 

What is a Graduate Diploma?
A Graduate Diploma will allow you to complete specialisation studies in a smaller amount of time and at a reduced cost of a Masters degree. Most of the time you will also have the option of transferring to a masters degree in the same topic. Once you complete your graduate diploma, you'll have advanced knowledge and skills for professional, highly skilled work or further learning.

What is a Masters Degree?
A Masters Degree allows you to become a specialist in your chosen field. Typically students are required you to demonstrate a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. When you graduate, you'll possess advanced knowledge of a specialised body of theoretical and applied topics, high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently. You will generally be required to undertake academic coursework and in some cases, preparation for professional practice.

What is Higher Education?
Higher education encompasses Bachelor level degrees and above and is offered by universities. Whether you're entering or re-entering the workforce, changing career paths or simply want to broaden your expertise, higher education will help you achieve your career goals with courses ranging from bachelor degrees, masters degrees, doctorates and more. Each course requires different commitments in terms of time, cost and pre-requisite or foundation study or experience. 

What is Undergraduate Study?
Undergraduate study is a term used to describe formal, accredited tertiary education achievements. Studied at a university, higher education institution or college, an undergraduate degree will usually be your first university degree, such as a bachelor degree and will take between three and four years of full-time study (or part-time equivalent) to complete.

What is Postgraduate Study?
Postgraduate study is a term generally used to describe tertiary education courses available to students who have already completed a bachelor degree or have significant relevant work experience. Postgraduate study takes the form of either coursework or research. 

Coursework consists of a program of academic study to achieve one or more of the following:

Graduate Certificate
Graduate Diploma
Postgraduate Diploma
Master by Coursework
Professional Master
Professional Doctorate
Taking a research approach to postgraduate study entails conducting research and providing a thesis to earn a: 

Master by Research or 
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

What is a Double Degree?
A double degree is a university degree where you study two single degrees at the same time, giving you the option of specialising in two different fields. To be eligible to enrol in a double degree, you must meet all the entry requirements of both degree programs. Even though you’ll be doubling your opportunities and giving yourself more career flexibility once you graduate, a double degree generally doesn't take double the time to complete. In most instances, you'll benefit from cross-crediting elective units, which will reduce your study costs and time compared to if you were studying separate bachelor degrees at different times. Usually a double degree will take four years full time study or part-time equivalent. 

What is a PhD?
A Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, is a globally recognised qualification that’s considered the highest postgraduate achievement an individual can earn. To be awarded with a PhD, you must select a specific subject within your chosen field, carry out extensive and original research and submit a substantial thesis on your findings. Your thesis will be assessed by external examiners and will be judged on the quality of original research and contribution to the knowledge of the subject. You'll be required to commit to three or four years of full-time study (or part-time equivalent) and will be supervised by academic staff members. Once you graduate, you'll be eligible to teach in your chosen field at a university level or work in a specialised position.



[1] Study levels and degrees

[2] Education level and jobs: Opportunities by state

[3] Educational Level and Pay | United States Department of Labor

[4] Educational attainment - Fast Facts - U.S. Department of Education

[5] All Education Levels | Center for Education Policy Analysis

[6]  Levels of education