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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2005  
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Contents >> Education and training >> Multiple qualification holders

Educational Attainment: Multiple Qualification Holders

In 2001, 2.3 million people aged 15-64 years held more than one non-school qualification.

In addition to the personal satisfaction people can gain from acquiring new skills and knowledge, obtaining a qualification can increase the chance of gaining paid work and of working in a preferred job. A qualification can provide a pathway to career progression, or a change in work, or can update skills required in an increasingly technological workforce. In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on lifelong learning with people taking different pathways at different times of their lives in order to obtain or upgrade their workplace and life skills, and their qualifications.1

Not all qualifications are gained by young people straight after leaving school and many people achieve more than one qualification over the course of their adult lives. This article focuses on multiple qualification holders, that is people aged 15-64 years, with two or more non-school qualifications.


MORE THAN ONE NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATION

In 2001, just over half (51%) of 15-64 year olds held a non-school qualification - almost 6.6 million Australians. Of these, more than a third (2.3 million people) held more than one non-school qualification. Many of these multiple qualification holders (65%) had two non-school qualifications, and 810,000 (35%) had three or more. While the proportion of people with non-school qualifications who had more than one such qualification was similar in 1997 and 2001, the number of people with two or more non-school qualifications increased by over 449,000 people.

Consistent with the longer time they had had in their adult lives to undertake more courses of study, 45-64 year olds were the most likely of all age groups to hold multiple qualifications (40% of people in this age group had non-school qualifications having multiple qualifications). At the other end of the age spectrum, many young people have not had the time to complete more than one non-school qualification. Despite this, in 2001, 181,000 people aged 15-24 years had two or more non-school qualifications. They represented 23% of people with non-school qualifications in this age group.

In 2001, 37% of multiple qualification holders had highest and second highest qualifications that were at the same level, while 61% held them in the same field.


Non-school qualifications

The data in this article come from the ABS 2001 Survey of Education and Training, which collected information on the educational attainment of people aged 15-64 years.

Multiple qualification holders are people aged 15-64 years with two or more non-school qualifications.

Non-school qualifications are awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary, or secondary education. They may be obtained concurrently with school qualifications.

Level of qualification is a ranking of qualifications according to the quality and quantity of learning involved in obtaining those qualifications. It is categorised according to the 'Level of education' classification in the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED).

Field of study is the subject matter taught in the course of study leading to the award of a particular qualification. It is categorised according to the 'Field of education' classification in the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED).

Persons aged 15-64 years with non-school qualifications: number of qualifications - 2001
Graph: Persons aged 15–64 years with non-school qualifications: number of qualifications — 2001



LEVELS OF MULTIPLE QUALIFICATIONS

The proportion of people with multiple non-school qualifications increased with the level of their highest qualification. In 2001, people aged 15-64 years with Postgraduate degrees were the most likely to have two or more non-school qualifications (96%), while those with Certificates I/II were the least likely (17%). This reflects both the hierarchical nature of the level of qualification classification and the academic requirement for people to have an undergraduate qualification in order to undertake postgraduate study. That said, not all qualifications are gained according to a hierarchy, with some people gaining vocational educational and training qualifications after gaining a Bachelor degree or higher.

In 2001, almost 1.5 million multiple qualification holders held their highest and second highest non-school qualifications at different levels. Of those in this group whose highest qualification was a Postgraduate degree, 97% had a second qualification that was a Bachelor degree or higher. For those whose highest qualification was a Graduate diploma or certificate, 81% had a Bachelor degree or higher. For those whose highest qualification was a Bachelor degree or higher, 34% had a second qualification at the level of Advanced diploma or diploma level or below. This represented 397,000 people with vocational educational and training qualifications who also held higher education qualifications.

MULTIPLE QUALIFICATION HOLDERS(A):
WHETHER HIGHEST AND SECOND HIGHEST QUALIFICATIONS AT SAME LEVEL AND IN SAME FIELD - 2001

%
Both at same level(b)
36.6
Both in same field(c)
60.7
'000

Multiple qualification holders(d)
2,322.9
%
As a proportion of all people with non-school qualifications
35.3

(a) Persons aged 15-64 years with two or more non-school qualifications.
(b) People whose level of qualifications were not determined were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(c) People whose field of qualification was not determined, and those with qualifications in Mixed fields were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(d) Includes people whose level of qualifications were not determined, those whose field of qualification was not determined, and those with qualifications in Mixed fields.

Source: ABS 2001 Survey of Education and Training.


FIELDS OF MULTIPLE QUALIFICATIONS

In 2001, the highest qualifications of people with two or more non-school qualifications were distributed across fields of study in similar proportions to the highest qualification of all people with qualifications. However, people were slightly more likely to have two or more non-school qualifications if their highest non-school qualification was in one of the following fields: Education, Society and culture, Health, and to a lesser extent Natural and physical sciences.

For people with two or more non-school qualifications, 61% had their second highest non-school qualification in the same field as their highest. This proportion varied across fields of study, from 42% for Information technology to 73% for Engineering and related technologies.

For multiple qualification holders who held their second highest qualification in a different field to their highest, 22% held their second highest qualification in the field of Management and commerce. Across fields of study, Management and commerce was the most common field of second highest qualification for seven of the 10 broad fields of study considered (other than Management and commerce itself). For those whose highest non-school qualification was in the field of Education, their second qualification was most likely, after Education, to be in the field of Society and culture (17%). Engineering and related technology was the next most common field of study (16%) for people whose highest non-school qualification was in Architecture and building.

For each field of study of highest non-school qualification, there were people whose second highest qualification was in each of the other fields of study. However, overall 82% of people had their second highest non-school qualification in either the same field as their highest or in Management and commerce.

MULTIPLE QUALIFICATION HOLDERS(A): LEVEL OF QUALIFICATIONS - 2001

Level of highest non-school qualification
Level of second highest non-school qualification
Postgraduate degree
Graduate diploma/ Graduate certificate
Bachelor degree
Advanced diploma/ Diploma
Certificate
III/IV
Certificate
I/II(b)
%
%
%
%
%
%

Postgraduate degree
16.6
..
..
..
..
..
Graduate diploma/Graduate certificate
19.5
12.8
..
..
..
..
Bachelor degree
60.5
67.7
38.5
..
..
..
Advanced diploma/Diploma
2.1
13.8
39.8
29.3
..
..
Certificate III/IV
1.0
4.0
11.2
41.6
44.8
..
Certificate I/II(b)
0.2
1.6
10.4
29.0
55.2
100.0
Total(c)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

Total(d)
291.9
388.0
522.4
351.3
466.1
249.4

(a) People aged 15-64 years with two or more non-school qualifications.
(b) Includes certificate not further defined.
(c) People whose level of second highest qualification was not determined were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(d) Includes people whose level of second highest qualification was not determined.

Source: ABS 2001 Survey of Education and Training.

MULTIPLE QUALIFICATION HOLDERS(A): FIELDS OF QUALIFICATIONS - 2001

Persons(b)
Persons(b)Second highest qualification in same field
Most common field of second highest qualification other than same field

Field of highest qualification
'000
% of persons
Field
% of persons

Natural and physical sciences
90.4
59.1
Education
6.6
Information technology
80.4
42.0
Management and commerce
18.6
Engineering and related technology
393.9
73.3
Management and commerce
8.6
Architecture and building
98.7
63.7
Engineering and related technology
16.0
Agriculture, environmental and related fields
57.8
46.6
Management and commerce
17.5
Health
287.3
72.2
Management and commerce
7.6
Education
292.5
45.8
Society and culture
17.3
Management and commerce
473.5
63.2
Engineering and related technology
9.2
Society and culture
345.5
55.9
Management and commerce
13.6
Creative arts
91.0
55.6
Management and commerce
14.0
Food, hospitality and personal services
85.8
50.1
Management and commerce
20.2
All multiple qualification holders(c)
2,322.9
60.7
Management and commerce
21.6

(a) People aged 15-64 years with two or more non-school qualifications.
(b) Includes people whose field of second highest qualification was not determined, and those whose second highest qualifications were in Mixed fields.
(c) Includes people whose field of highest qualification was not determined, and those whose highest qualifications were in Mixed fields.

Source: ABS 2001 Survey of Education and Training.


ENDNOTES

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004, Information Paper: Measuring Learning in Australia - Plan to Improve the Quality, Coverage and Use of Education and Training Statistics, cat. no. 4231.0, ABS, Canberra.


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