You should choose a diploma course if the industry you have decided on requires specific skills or vocational training. A diploma course not only lets you learn industry-related skills and knowledge from the start of the programme, it also gives you the option of continuing your studies or entering the workforce early.
At a Glance
How Long Does It Take?
Two to three years depending on the subject or specialisation.
Where Can I Take It?
Community colleges, polytechnics, colleges, selected private and public universities.
What should I know about this course before I take it?
There are roughly two types of diploma courses; skills and vocational diploma courses, and diploma and advanced diploma for higher education courses. Both kinds will prepare you to join the workforce in your field at a higher level than an SPM school leaver. However, the second type will also prepare you for further studies in university should you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Why should I take it?
If you prefer to work with your hands rather than bury your head in books, taking a skills and vocational diploma would be a better option than a university degree. Diploma courses for higher education are not as academically taxing as a full degree. If halfway through your diploma course you change your mind and would like to study a full degree, that choice is still viable as many diploma courses are recognised as valid pre-university qualifications.
Inside Diploma Courses
Under the Malaysian Qualification Framework (MQF), there are three sectors of education that can lead to diplomas. One is in the skills and training sector where certificates and diplomas are awarded by the Ministry of Human Resources; the vocational and technical sector where diplomas are awarded by polytechnics and colleges; and lastly, diplomas and advanced diplomas under the higher education sector awarded by colleges and universities.
Skills and Vocational Courses
In many sectors, it is not necessary for a student to get a bachelor’s degree before they can start working. Some industries pay very well for skilled employees, so this route should not be considered a less desirable option after SPM.
Students who choose this path undergo shorter duration courses or certificate-level training. Each level of study awards you a certificate or diploma, which recognises your level of competence in the field. The duration of each training level varies between six months and two years.
As the course emphasises more on practical skills than theoretical knowledge, the higher you go with each level, the more you will learn and can contribute when you start working. Having a certificate level of 1 and 2 allows you to start working in operations and production; level 3 and 4 (which is a diploma) gives you a supervisory role; while level 5 prepares you for a managerial role.
Most students who wish to enter the workforce quickly to gather experience would end their studies at level 2 or 3. For those who are quick to learn and hard-working, this can help them get a head start towards a lifelong career.
Here are some specialisations that do not require a bachelor’s degree to work in:
- hospitality services
- industrial design
- management (eg operations)
- automotive trade
- culinary arts
- early childhood education
- hair styling/design
Diploma in Higher Education
Diploma courses are a level below bachelor’s degrees and advanced diplomas are the bridging course between diplomas and degrees.
One advantage of a diploma course is that students can transfer credits to a degree programme later. This would allow students to skip some of the subjects in a degree programme. In some cases, some students may even be able to enter a degree programmes as a final-year student.
You can also opt to take a one-year advanced diploma course instead of a degree. To receive a degree, you will need to do additional research or a thesis project, which would not be necessary for an advanced diploma.
Compared to other external pre-university qualifications, a diploma course exposes students to the core knowledge and skills of their desired career earlier. Some diploma classes also include a semester of industrial training which goes a long way to prepare graduates for the workforce.
Diplomas are offered in many fields of study including:
- creative technology
- mass communications.
- architecture (eg quantity surveying, building maintenance, construction)
This article first appeared in doctorjob's CoursesNOW! Pre-University 2010.