What do you study in construction?

Construction is undoubtedly one of the largest industries in Australia. With such an expansive sector, the amount of roles occupied and sought after are numerous, and differ in various aspects. What an electrician specialises in is quite dissimilar to the capabilities of a carpenter, and these comparisons could be made with lots of other roles. With such a wide-reaching spread of jobs in the sector, it is expected that the courses and structure of education within construction is also diverse. It can be difficult to pinpoint or summarise what construction has to offer in terms of studying. This blog will outline what is studied in construction, and will provide different examples of what might be expected for aspiring entrants into the industry.


It is important to note that Australia follows the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), which details the standards for qualifications in Australia. There is a hierarchy of levels which includes:


  • Certificate I
  • Certificate II
  • Certificate III
  • Certificate IV
  • Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree
  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma
  • Masters Degree
  • Doctoral Degree


By separating these levels, it becomes easier to analyse what is studied in construction as you can understand the quality of courses and how they progress through each difficulty level.


What must also be brought to light is that each course within a level is composed of units of competency. The competencies define workplace requirements or abilities which are required in order to perform tasks in the workplace within the confines of the singular course or multiple courses completed.



Certificate I


The level of Certificate I is the start of the AQF ladder. It is a prologue to entering the world of construction; learning about concepts at their most basic level and being made aware of learning objectives to gain an understanding of the area of work. Core competencies will also be brought forward, which will be honed out in higher levels in the event you decide to keep moving up the AQF. This should help you to gain a better understanding, albeit minor, in what you seek in a career in construction. A course that is frequently chosen to complete at this level is the Certificate I in Construction, which is the most generalised course in the level and would be an appropriate place to start. Despite being the beginning of the AQF, it isn’t applicable to everyone. In fact, it is generally aimed at school leavers wishing to start entering the industry at an early point, and to a lesser extent for people looking to gain basic skills and/or knowledge in construction. Considering the content taught, Certificate I can run anywhere from 6 to 12 months. 



Certificate II


The next level in the AQF, Certificate II, is where things start to get more specialised. This is evidenced by the fact that because it is the level above Certificate I, it is also considered to be a rise in difficulty. Because of this, it is the first level which will allow you to enter trade in the construction industry, with the exception of plumbing. Included with an apprenticeship, it is a point where many aim to start working in construction. Some courses that are completed at this level include the Certificate II in Joinery, Certificate II in Carpentry and the Certificate II in Bricklaying. The content taught in each of these courses can vary quite significantly. Courses at this level last 6-12 months, similar to Certificate I.


Certificate III


The next level, Certificate III, increases the focus on core competencies, and provides greater theoretical concepts to expand upon. Ultimately, you will be able to hone the knowledge and skills developed from Certificate II, which will inevitably make you a lot more ready to enter the construction industry looking for employment. Many students who reach this level feel compelled to keep completing courses higher up the AQF. Such is the nature of Certificate III, as it inspires students to seek more education instead of going straight to the workforce. Courses studied at this level include Certificate III in Civil Construction, Certificate III in Carpentry and Joinery, and Certificate III in Shopfitting. To complete a Certificate III course, it would normally take 1 to 2 years, and up to 4 years when including an apprenticeship.



Certificate IV


Certificate IV is commonly considered the point where many start their entry into construction. This is because you can gain the necessary qualifications without having to go through the previous 3 levels. The only requirement is a construction induction card (white card) which permits you to enter construction sites. Certificate IV is a wide-reaching qualification level in that you can choose from lots of different areas of specialisation, or just look from a broad perspective. Content taught is more demanding than previous levels, however what you study isn’t so complex that previous experience is required.  A course of frequent completion is the Certificate IV in Building and Construction. In this course, you learn about many areas of construction such as developing skills in planning projects, applying codes and regulations, and managing resources effectively. It also seeks to strengthen your knowledge in building and construction to a high level, which can significantly aid you in seeking opportunities in the job market. As it is a wide-reaching and useful level of the AQF, roles that are typically available to apply for include contract administrators, estimators, site supervisors etc., all of which are challenging in their own way.





The level of Diploma only raises the bar in difficulty, which makes sense given it can lead to further specialisation at university level. The theoretical and practical aspects become more intricate and complex. An example of a course at this level is the Diploma of Building and Construction, which is a continuation of the Certificate IV course mentioned in the previous level. Upon completion of the course, you will have learnt how to apply building codes and regulations, prepare contracts and permits, and effectively manage construction projects. Because of the advance in difficulty, It is 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. Roles commonly sought after upon completion of this level include Site Manager, Project Manager or Domestic Builder.


study in construction



Bachelor’s Degree


A bachelor’s degree is completed at university level. The key component of what is studied in this area is further specialisation. Similarly to the Diploma, the types of courses at this level are for management and highly-technical areas, which means that there is a smaller range of courses available. Examples include the Bachelor of Building Design, Bachelor of Building Surveying, and Bachelor of Construction Management.


After this point, the final levels of the AQF open the door for becoming a recognised expert in a particular field. For the majority of people, these levels are not necessary. 


Understanding what is studied in construction can be confusing, however by analysing from the viewpoint of the AQF, it becomes easier to distinguish between courses as they can be different in many ways such as content and overall focus. 


Parker Brent is an accredited provider of building and construction courses, specialising in the Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building) and the Diploma of Building and Construction (Building). If you are interested, enquire today: www.parkerbrent.com.au