Who should opt for a Diploma in Building and Construction instead of a Certificate IV? Can’t everyone interested do a diploma?

The construction industry is quite large and contains within its expanse a plethora of roles that are sought after by construction professional hopefuls aiming to find their place in the industry.  These roles vary quite largely and as the industry itself is quite large this essentially means there is diversity in the types of roles that exist within the construction industry. A good example is that the construction manager will not have the same role as the person responsible for doing the construction takeoffs or a plumber. Some of the roles that exist can be as different as potentially possible but this is normal as each role will require its own set of skills or specialisations for the person filling that role to conduct their work in a professional manner.


Entering into the construction industry can be daunting for some not knowing where to start or having many questions on where the best possible place to start is. Truthfully, one’s journey in construction can differ from person to person. Some may want to specialise in a particular area in the industry gathering knowledge from the bottom and working their way up gaining skills as they move along until they reach their desired destination. There are also others that may want to start at an easier point and progress from there, however possibly having a more difficult entry when it comes to 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. 


Before discussing the courses in building and construction and which course is recommended to start with, it is important to note that some may prefer to be self taught. This is a common query that pops up in regards to seeking an alternative to gaining the required levels of qualification in the construction industry for competency. To address this let us highlight the difference between self learning and simply taking on certifications and apprenticeships through the example of carpentry. 


Can it be self taught? Yes you can learn carpentry at a basic level, but the question is, will you be hired? Without a Certificate III and a 3 year apprenticeship you will not be hired as a professional carpenter because you are simply not qualified.


This brings us to certificates and which certificate you should study to enter into the construction industry. We have already mentioned Certificate III, in fact there are different levels of certificates. It is important to note that Australia follows the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), which details the standards for qualifications in Australia. 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. It is also important to note each course within a certain level will be composed of units of competency. These 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.


The different levels of Certification range from Certificate I to Certificate III with Certificate I being an entry point in the construction industry. Then there is Certificate IV which does not continue from Certificate III but is an alternate entry point into the construction industry and progresses to the Diploma which is the natural continuation from Certificate IV. 


Both the Certificate IV and the Diploma in Building and Construction are courses that are designed to give you an advanced and encompassing look into building and construction whilst being accommodating for different levels of experience. 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? To answer this we must first understand what these courses both entail to better help us determine which one is best suited for a particular individual.



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. 


In terms of the Certificate IV in Building and Construction, the most notable advantage it provides is ease of entry into the industry. You do not need to necessarily be proficient or have minimal knowledge in construction to undertake this course. In theory, anyone can do it. This means that you can fastrack your way into the industry by developing your knowledge in a relatively simple and succinct manner.


As aforementioned, the 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. 


Content taught at this level is more demanding than in 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 Diploma of Building and Construction includes 18 units, with 13 of them being core and the other 5 being elective. Various areas are covered such as:


  • 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


The course lasts for 50 weeks, covering many topics such as the ones mentioned above. 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. 


In terms of requirements, applicants must be at a suitable level of English language, with satisfactory literacy and numeracy skills. They must also possess a current Construction Induction Card (also known as a white card) and must have access to a building and construction project worksite.


What the Diploma of Building and Construction offers above that of the easy access to the industry that the Certificate IV offers is its scope. It will simply put, develop what you have learnt in the Certificate IV and take it to the next level. If you thought you were proficient in one area, you can expect to become even more knowledgeable in that area by completing a Diploma. What this gives you is access to a greater range of roles you would be eligible for, as employers would seek highly trained individuals who can slot in seamlessly because of the level they preside at.


Some however, may wonder if they can jump straight to the Diploma and opt for that instead of doing a Certificate IV? For those entering into the construction industry opting for the Diploma is an unwise choice. Let us examine two scenarios to help you determine which course fits best for your situation.


In one particular scenario there is someone who is relatively lacking in knowledge in regards to the construction industry, they have not taken any previous courses. In this case undertaking the diploma is beyond this person’s capabilities, there is too much they don’t know prior to entering the course and the workload would be overwhelming for such an individual. Therefore, it would simply be wasted time. This individual should take the Certificate IV as aforementioned it is the perfect entry point into the industry.


On the other hand, there may be someone who has already undertaken a previous course not necessarily the Certificate IV, perhaps they have completed other levels of the AQF but at a lower level as well as completed some form apprenticeship with hands-on experience. This individual would be more likely to successfully undertake the diploma, even more so if they completed the Certificate IV on its own as the natural progression from the Certificate IV in Building and Construction is to progress to the Diploma in Building and Construction.


Another point to consider is how you expect to build your career. Your purpose will give you a relatively clear indication of whether you should opt to complete the Diploma of Building and Construction in addition to the Certificate IV in Building and Construction. What kind of roles do you realistically expect to reside in when at a point of future employment? What is the level of responsibility you would like to have in a job? These are some of the questions to consider when thinking about the purpose of your studies, which will subsequently provide you with more information with regards to understanding whether to opt for the Diploma course or only complete the Certificate IV course.


Generally speaking, the type of person that would usually opt to complete a Diploma of Building and Construction is someone who enjoys added responsibility. Think leaders and people with power. They provide directions, delegate tasks, manage workflow etc. The course provides outcomes in these areas to improve skills and leadership. This is evidenced by the types of roles sought after by people who have completed a Diploma of Building and Construction. They are usually prescribed with added functions of responsibility designed to control and supervise.


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 here.