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Academic vs professional qualifications

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Academic vs professional qualification

Both academic and professional qualifications are registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

An academic qualification involves the study of a subject with an academic discipline and (hopefully) research focus. The overriding purpose of this qualification is a contribution to the learner's specialized knowledge of a subject and not necessarily the application thereof.

The purpose of a professional qualification is to impart knowledge, understanding and practical experience to the learner to enable the learner to apply the knowledge in a practical manner, in a professional practice. This obviously leads to a completely different set of skills, each with different purposes and contexts for the world of work.

What makes these qualifications different?

On the one hand, a professional qualification is usually made up of on-the-job training and various short courses, which when combined make up a qualification.

On the other hand, the academic route focuses on the theory rather than practical application and leads to a qualification.

If the professional qualification is regulated by a professional body in the form of a professional designation, such titles must be renewed through annual reregistration with the regulatory body and include continuous professional development (CPD) activities to prove the currency of the skill/s.

The most striking difference between these forms of qualification is perhaps that a professional qualification, due to the nature of the training and the fact that it is built on practice analysis, offers a warrant of competence and expertise. Such as in the case of the Institute of Chartered IT Professionals – ICITP -:

Professional Qualification Title:          IT Certified Professional, South Africa

It therefore certifies that, having completed the course or training, the graduate has the essential knowledge and skills to perform the duties required of his/her profession.

In contrast, an academic qualification does not certify competence and is not based on a systematic or formal practice analysis; all it certifies is that the learner has successfully learnt the theory behind the practice.

The Institute of Chartered IT Professionals -