Students who obtain a “bachelor’s pass” on the National Senior Certificate examination have the right to be admitted to university, but some institutions have additional admission tests or other entrance requirements.
Bachelor’s degrees are usually three or four years in length. Three-year bachelor’s degrees are in fields such as humanities, business, or science. Examples include the Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Social Science. The academic year is 30 full-time weeks; each week students are expected to study 40 hours.
A three-year bachelor’s degree requires a minimum of 360 credits. The final award is at the NQF level of 7. Graduates wishing to continue to postgraduate study will have to complete an additional year of NQF level 8 courses. This can be done through a bachelor’s honors degree or a postgraduate diploma.
Four-year bachelor’s degrees are typically awarded in professional fields such as engineering, agriculture, pharmacy, technology, and nursing. The admission requirements are the same as those for the three-year bachelor’s degrees. These bachelor’s degrees are benchmarked at NQF level 8. They require at least 480 credits.
Honors degrees build on the proficiency acquired in the previous three-year bachelor’s degree. Honors degrees are at the NQF level 8. It is important to note that the “honors” designation in this case does not represent a degree classification, however, it is additional study that is undertaken after the three-year bachelor’s degree. The program is one year in length, yielding 120 credits, and must include a research paper or thesis. The purpose of these programs is to expand the knowledge of the student in a particular area.
In addition to the level 8 honors degrees, there are also postgraduate diplomas that are generally pegged at level eight. Qualifications at different levels can be accessed in the South African Qualifications Authorities’ database.
Master’s degrees are benchmarked at level 9 of the NQF. Admission is contingent upon either a four-year bachelor’s degree or a bachelor’s honors degree. Typically, master’s degrees require 180 credits, and entail a minimum completion time of one year. However, requirements can fluctuate between 120 and 240 credits depending on the program.
Students in master’s degree programs are required to complete substantial research. Research can make up the entirety of the program or it can be in addition to coursework.
The highest qualification offered in South Africa is the doctoral degree. As such, it is pegged at a level ten, the highest level on the NQF scale. Admission to a doctoral degree is dependent upon the completion of a master’s degree. The doctoral degree, or Doctor of Philosophy, typically requires 360 credits and takes a minimum of two years to complete. The 360 credits required for these programs are usually purely based on research, although course work may be required in some programs.
The standard degree for medical education in South Africa is the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) or, in Latin, the Medicinae Baccalaureus, Baccalaureus Chirurgiae (MBBCh). It is a six-year degree program directly after the National Senior Certificate.
An alternative to the MBBS is the GEMP or Graduate Entry Medical Program. This program was created by University of the Witwatersrand “to address the current shortage of well-educated and highly skilled doctors”. Under this scheme, students who have completed an undergraduate degree are eligible to enter directly into the third year of an MBBS program, shortening the length of the program to four years. After the completion of the degree a potential doctor must register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Registration requirements and functions are described in the Health Professions Act of 1974.
In order to become a lawyer in South Africa a student must complete a four-year Bachelor of Laws (LLB). After the completion of the LLB, graduates must complete either six months of service or a six month program at a School for Legal Practice before taking the Law Society examination, which covers practice and procedure, wills and estates, attorney’s practice, contracts and rules of conduct, and legal bookkeeping. To take the examination the examinee must register with their provincial law society. These are the Law Society of the Norther Provinces, the Cape Law Society, the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society and the Law Society of the Free State. After meeting these requirements the registered graduate is free to practice law.