search aussie childcare network

Is Certificate III in Early Childhood Education being phased out?

  • Written by 
  • Print

There is no truth to the rumour that the certificate III or 'actively working towards' will be phased out.

 According to ACECQA: 

All other educators required for the ratio must have, or be actively working towards at least an approved certificate III level qualification. Some services may request that all their educators have, or be working towards, an approved diploma level qualification. This is not mandated by the National Regulations and is at the discretion of individual services. 

What’s the difference between the Certificate III and the Diploma anyway? 

If you’ve been around the child care industry for a while, you’ll know that students used to have to complete the Certificate III before they could enrol in the Diploma. Now, you can enrol directly into the Diploma course WITHOUT studying the Certificate III first. 

Now I bet you’re thinking, “Well why wouldn’t I just do the Diploma qualification anyway?” 

Before I answer that, you should know the fundamental differences between the two courses: 

  • The Certificate III course is designed to help you develop the core skills to work as an early childhood educator, working with children in long day care and family day care services.
  • The Diploma course is designed to help you develop core early childhood educator skills PLUS the knowledge and abilities to work as an early childhood education centre manager, family day care coordinator or group leader.

There are quite a few good reasons why the Certificate III is still the more popular course. In our experience, people choose the Certificate III over the Diploma because of 4 main differences:

1. Difficulty in Units

It’s fair to say the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care is the more difficult qualification, particularly when you are just starting out. It has 10 extra units (28 vs 18) and assesses a lot of extra skills required to become a centre manager, family day care coordinator or group leader.

For example, the Certificate III has the unit CHCECE010 that teaches you how to support the holistic development of children. In the Diploma course, you will be taught how to actually design and implement a development curriculum in unit CHECECE024. This is one of the many advanced skills unique to the Diploma.

2. Vocational Placement Requirements

The Certificate III in Early Childhood Education requires a minimum of 120 hours spent in a vocational placement in a registered Australian Early Childhood Education centre. The Diploma requires a minimum of 240 hours spent in a vocational placement in a registered Australian Early Childhood Education centre. If you want to gain more work experience, you can earn as much as 240 hours with the Certificate III  and 480 hours with the Diploma.

Remember that you can’t complete more than 240 hours of your placement in a 12 month period, which makes it a little harder to organise and finish.

3. Time

The Certificate III is a shorter course because of the differences above. It is designed to take only 1 year versus 2 years for the Diploma. This means you can get qualified sooner and have your completed certificate to show potential employers.

4. Cost

Finally, the Certificate III qualification is significantly cheaper than its Diploma level counterpart. This is simply because the Certificate III course is shorter, so there are less training and assessment costs involved. The Diploma is still an important qualification to have, however, when you are ready to advance your career.

Here’s a table to summarize some of their differences:

Which course should I choose?

If you already have a job lined up, talk to your employer about which qualification they would like you to study. Different services will have different needs or may leave the choice completely up to you.

  • If you’re an experienced early childhood educator looking to get the maximum career opportunities from your training, the Diploma course is probably the best choice.
  • If you’re just starting out the early childhood education industry and don’t want to invest a heap of time and money up front, then the Certificate III may be the better choice.

Remember, once you complete your Certificate III it’s easy to upgrade to the Diploma. Training organisations use Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to give you direct credit for the course units you’ve already completed plus the experience you gained working in the industry. This means that you won’t have to do all 28 units of the Diploma course when you do decide to take it.


If you currently hold the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care, don’t worry because there are no plans to phase it out.  It is still the standard and the more manageable qualification for new educators and child care workers.  

The Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care is the course to take when you want to enhance your career. It’s a bigger investment when it comes to time, costs and difficulty, but you get advanced skills useful for positions like childcare managers and coordinators. 

If you are still unsure of which course to take and whether you can apply for RPL, contact a course provider who will be able to assist and guide you. 

Last modified on Saturday, October 13, 2018
Child Care Documentation App

© 2009-2021 Aussie Childcare Network Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved.