Should I go for a Certificate IV or a Diploma of Building and Construction?

Khalid Noor, 2020


Beginning one’s journey in construction differs depending on the person. Some might decide upon working from the very bottom, harvesting knowledge sequentially in order to reach a point whereby they are proficient in a particular area of building and construction or have generalised expertise. Others would look at starting from a point where it is easier to progress and expand on areas of study, albeit having a difficult entry in terms of understanding the inner workings of construction. 


The latter is usually the more preferred option, particularly for those who are not school leavers. There are courses which are designed to give you an advanced and encompassing look into building and construction whilst being accommodating for different levels of experience. It then becomes a question of which course to do. 


Two courses that fall into this category are the Certificate IV of Building and Construction (Building) and the Diploma of Building and Construction (Building). Both are exceptional at introducing you to the key concepts of construction at a high level, and offer further specialisation pathways to explore. But which one is better for you?



Certificate IV 


Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building) is a course that is part of the fourth level of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) which is used to separate qualifications in education and training, classified as levels. It signifies an increase in complexity from the previous three levels. There are courses of different areas in this level, and building and construction is a field that many are interested in because of its scope and flexibility.


The course is composed of 16 units. Of this amount, 13 units are core and the other 3 are elective. The topics covered include but are not limited to:


  • Applying building codes and standards to construction processes
  • Managing occupational health and safety (OH&S)
  • Conducting on-site supervision of projects
  • Reading and interpreting plans and specifications
  • Arranging for building applications and approvals


In terms of requirements, applicants must be at a suitable level of English language, with satisfactory literacy and numeracy skills. 


Students will also be provided with the opportunity to attend classes which introduce and teach topics. In addition to this, tutors will at later points provide assessments, and students will be expected to perform a minimum of two hours of their own research. When adding up these factors, the time taken to complete the course is approximately 34 weeks, which is reasonable considering the sheer amount of content needed to learn before one is adequately trained to the level required for Certificate IV. 


The Certificate IV in Building and Construction is geared towards providing you with skills in planning projects, applying codes and regulations, and managing resources effectively. Additionally, It looks to develop your knowledge in building and construction to a higher level, which only expands the chances of obtaining job opportunities. Roles that are looked at in particular upon completion of this course include contract administrators, estimators and site supervisors.





The Diploma of Building and Construction (Building) is at the Diploma level. This is the fifth level of the AQF, one ahead of Certificate IV. As it is a level higher, you can expect that learning outcomes are more difficult and time needed is longer compared to Certificate IV courses. This is no less different with the Diploma of Building and Construction (Building) course. 


The Diploma of Building and Construction (Building) includes 18 units in total. Of these 18 units, 13 of them are core to the course, whilst the other 5 units are electives. Some of the areas covered include but are not limited to:


  • Applying principles of OHS risk management
  • Controlling project quality and risk
  • Applying building codes and standards to construction processes
  • Applying site surveys and set out procedures
  • Managing environmental and energy conservation practices and processes


One thing that can already be pointed out as a differentiator between the Certificate IV of Building and Construction (Building) and the Diploma of Building and Construction (Building) is the time needed to complete both courses. Although the Certificate IV course lasts for 34 weeks, the Diploma course runs even longer, reaching approximately 50 weeks. The reason for this is that it covers many topics such as the ones mentioned above, of which will require considerable time and resources to teach students. Such is the increase in difficulty that this is an absolute must. Just like Certificate IV, students will need to reserve a minimum of 2 hours per week of self-directed research, supplementing classes which will be supervised by a trainer. 


Just like the previous course, applicants need to be at a suitable level of English language, with satisfactory literacy and numeracy skills. 


The Diploma of Building and Construction (Building) provides students with classes where topics will be introduced by tutors and discussion will be facilitated, which also gives rise to the opportunity to solve problems and undertake assessments. Because this is considered a course of an advanced nature, it is generally aimed at tradespeople and other employed people in the construction industry who are looking to advance their skills in management and development of residential/low-rise construction. People who complete this course usually look to apply for and subsequently progress to roles such as Site Manager, Project Manager or Domestic Builder.


This course is bountiful in benefits. Most of all, it will inevitably aid you in increasing your prospects of attaining desired employment in the construction industry, which will give you an advantage over others at lower educational levels. It will also help you in gaining knowledge to be able to successfully make a Domestic Builder Unlimited (DB-U) application.


After examining both courses, the key question is this: which course should you go for? Ultimately, the course you decide to choose to complete is entirely dependent on your circumstances. This could include factors such as experience, needs, time and what you are actually looking to get out of these courses. 


For instance, if you were lacking in construction experience in the sense that you have not completed previous courses or undertaken hands-on experience, it would be unwise to begin with a Diploma of Building and Construction (Building). This course is undoubtedly strenuous, therefore doing it without having had any previous experience would not be beneficial. 


On the other hand, you may have already completed a Certificate IV in Building and Construction. It would then make sense to progress to the Diploma course because you are at a level where progression to this point is the next logical step. But you do not necessarily have to have completed this course to do a Diploma course. You could be at a lower point on the AQF, but this could be negated by having previous experience on construction sites to back it up. 


By asking yourself questions on your current status, capabilities and where you expect to be in the future, you can further come to a conclusion on which course is best for you to begin with. The one constant which can be guaranteed is that whichever you choose, you can be sure it will help you to advance your career in building and construction.


Parker Brent is an accredited provider of courses in building and construction. We currently offer the Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building) and the Diploma of Building and Construction (Building). Enquire for more details.