NQF Levels: Everything you Need to Know


You’ve probably heard about NQF levels, their role in helping you land a job or furthering your education. Since so much confusion exists around this qualification system, it can be difficult to determine if you’re taking a course with the right NQF level for you. To help you navigate the NQF system, we detail everything you need to know about the National Qualification Framework and what the 10 NQF levels are.

What Are NQF Levels?

To respond to the ever-changing education environment, South Africa developed a National Qualification Framework (NQF). The framework ensures every qualification offered the same standard. The framework is separated into predetermined levels, which are guidelines that dictate the qualification you have.

To manage this system, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) launched. The organization oversees the implementation and development of the framework and reports to the minister on its findings.

The 10 NQF Levels

A core part of the NQF is the levels, which can be confusing to navigate if you don’t know what they are. We breakdown each of the ten levels to help you determine what each NQF level means and what NQF level would apply when furthering your education.

NQF 1: General Certificate

This is the certificate learners receive at the end of Grade 9. It was previously known as the school leaving certificate and would allow learners to enter technical colleges to further their education and work their way to an NQF level 4 (matric)

NQF 2: Elementary Certificate

This certificate indicates you have Grade 10. You could previously enter the workforce doing vocational work with this certificate.

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NQF 3: Intermediate Certificate

The NQF level 3 is Grade 11 or Grade 11 equivalent. This NQF is not only applied to high school and can also be received from courses taken through Umalusi accredited training bodies.

NQF 4: National Certificate

The NQF level 4 or National Senior Certificate is awarded to matriculants. 

NQF 5: Higher Certificate

This NQF level is awarded as a higher certificate and shows progress beyond matric. These certificates are given for completing a vocational course that allows you to enter a specific line of work.

NQF 6: Diploma/ Advanced Certificate

The NQF level 6 is awarded to diploma graduates with one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study.

NQF 7: Bachelor Degree and Advanced Diploma

This level is for completing a bachelor’s degree or advanced diploma, which usually requires three years of full-time study.

NQF 8: Bachelor Honours Degree/ Postgraduate Diploma

An NQF level 8, commonly referred to as an honours degree or postgraduate degree, shows that you have one additional year of study besides your advanced diploma or bachelor degree. 

NQF 9: Master’s Degree

This NQF level is awarded to professionals after completing a master’s degree. 

NQF 10: Doctoral Degree

The highest of all NQF levels, the NQF level 10, is only awarded to doctoral graduates. This degree can take up to 6 years of study to complete.

When furthering your education, always look to receive a qualification that has an NQF level higher than your starting NQF level; this will help you further your education so that it’s beneficial to your dreams and goals.