Non-school qualification: field of study (QALFP)

Latest release
Census of Population and Housing: Census dictionary
Reference period


This variable describes the field of study of a person’s highest completed non-school qualification. Qualifications data is used to:

  • help build a picture of the different non-school qualifications undertaken in Australia and how this has changed over time
  • assess the skill level of the labour force, and potential labour force
  • understand the characteristics of Australia’s workforce when compared with occupation and industry of employment.


Persons aged 15 years and over who stated a completed qualification


Non-school qualification: field of study (QALFP) is coded using the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001. The categories are listed in groups below. The full list is available from the Data downloads on this page.

01 Natural and Physical Sciences

02 Information Technology

03 Engineering and Related Technologies

04 Architecture and Building

05 Agriculture, Environmental and Related Studies

06 Health

07 Education

08 Management and Commerce

09 Society and Culture

10 Creative Arts

11 Food, Hospitality and Personal Services

12 Mixed Field Programmes

Supplementary codes

Number of categories:

  • Two digit: 16
  • Four digit: 87
  • Six digit: 435

Not applicable (@@@@@@) comprises:

  • Persons who have a qualification that is out of scope of this classification
  • Persons with no qualifications
  • Persons still studying for a first qualification
  • Persons aged under 15 years

See Understanding supplementary codes for more information.

Question(s) from the Census form

What is the highest year of primary or secondary school the person has completed?

Has the person completed any educational qualification?

What is the level of the highest qualification the person has completed?

What is the main field of study for the person’s highest qualification completed?

Did the person complete this qualification before 1998?

How this variable is created

Non-school qualification: field of study (QALFP) is mainly coded based on written responses for qualification level and qualification field questions. The following questions may also be used:

  • Highest year of primary or secondary school completed
  • Qualification indicator (question asking whether person has completed any educational qualification)
  • Whether the qualification was completed before 1998

History and changes

The question on main field of study was first asked in the 1971 Census and has been asked in every Census since then.

In 2001, the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) replaced the ABS Classification of Qualifications (ABSCQ).

In the 2006 Census, the year completed question was reworded to ask if the qualification was obtained before 1998 or from 1998 onward, with 1998 being the year the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) was introduced. The distinction between certificates awarded pre-1998 and from 1998 onward is also used to assist in coding some certificates to finer levels of the ASCED classification.

In 2021, minor instructional text changes to the main field of study question have been made to provide guidance for people with double degrees. The field examples were updated based on prevalence in the 2016 Census and selected to include fields found at the VET and University levels.

Data use considerations

When using this variable, the directly applicable population (i.e. those who answered 'Yes' to the Qualifications indicator question) is not identifiable in the output data set. This is because those who answered 'Yes, other qualification' to the Qualifications indicator question, and then subsequently did not provide a response to the question on main field of highest qualification, are coded to 'not stated' in this variable. Therefore, this variable cannot be used as a count of people who hold a qualification.

The non-response rate for Non-school qualification: field of study (QALFP) was 12.3% in 2021. This is a decrease from 15.1% in 2016.

A large component of non-response for this variable is due to people not answering the Qualification Indicator question and the Non-school qualification: field of study questions. People may have: 

  • not seen the question relevant to themselves, and did not respond 
  • been imputed into occupied dwellings where no form had been returned.

It may not be appropriate to consider these groups of non-respondents when calculating non-response for the directly applicable population.

When Non-school qualification: field of study (QALFP) is analysed in conjunction with a 'Yes' response to the Qualifications Indicator question, the non-response rate was 2.3% in 2021. This is an increase from 2.0% in 2016.

Related variables and glossary terms

  • Full-time/part-time student status (STUP)
  • Non-school qualification: level of education (QALLP)
  • Highest year of school completed (HSCP)

Data downloads

Non-school qualification: field of study classification

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