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National Technical Certificate – What Is It?

by Hannah Maidment

Interested in engineering but don’t have a matric, a national technical certificate could be your answer. Consider studying towards a national technical certificate at one of South Africa’s further education and training colleges.

The National Technical Certificate gives you the opportunity to work in the engineering field without the engineering credentials attained at other tertiary institutions. This qualification can also give you the opportunity to study further and eventually pursue a higher education qualification in engineering.

What is a National Technical Certificate?

National technical certificates are vocational qualifications that one can choose to study at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. These courses are only offered in Engineering studies and are technical and vocational in nature. This just means you receive training with a final goal of enabling you to pursue a specific range of careers.

How do I get one?

A national technical certificate, or a N3 certificate, consists of specialised programmes (like Motor Mechanic N3 or Electrician N3). In order to enrol in an N3 course, you have to have completed both N1 and N2 qualifications. These are introductory courses to the work you will cover in your N3 course.

N1 and N2 certificate courses can both be completed in one year of full-time study, or in two years, if you choose to study part time. You can also choose to do a foundation certificate, which consists only of the N1 and N2 qualifications. In order to enrol in an N1 certificate course, you must have successfully completed grade 9, with maths and science. You are only able to begin the N2 portion of the course if you have successfully completed the N1 component.

To complete your N3 certificate course, you will have to study for another year, full time. During this time, you will cover four technical subjects and you will be assessed by your TVET college. In order to be awarded the qualification, you will have to pass standardised written exams in each of the subjects. At many TVET colleges, you are able to study towards all three of these qualifications in one combined course.

What can I do when I have an NTC?

Upon completion of your N3 qualification, you are not able to work in your chosen vocation.  You are, however, well on your way. When applying to study a national diploma, N4, N5 and N6 certificates, your N3 qualification will make you an equivalent candidate to someone who holds an NSC (grade 12 certificate) with maths and physical sciences.

After you have successfully completed all your exams on the N4, N5 and N6 levels, you will have to work in your chosen field for 18 months before you are awarded a national diploma. Once you have been awarded your diploma, you are able to work as a fully qualified person in that field.

An N3 qualification does not give you the ability to apply to study further at a university or university of technology in higher education qualifications in South Africa. However, the technical NSC, as offered by Technical/TVET colleges, consists of a combination of four N3 subjects and two business languages — languages that are especially related to business and trade, and so are more formal than their conversational counterparts. You can also elect to study one business language and one other accepted language, as offered by the college. So if you choose to add these two subjects to your subject list, then you are able to apply to study at some of South Africa’s universities of technology. And if you choose to pursue a national diploma, N4 to N6, you also have the opportunity to progress into higher education at South Africa’s universities.

Damelin Correspondence College

Damelin Correspondence College is a registered private TVET college. Damelin Correspondence is a recognized tertiary institution that gives its students the opportunity to advance their careers. The college allows you to register for study at any time of the year.  It also allows you to study part-time and facilitates distance learning so you are able to engage with your course work in a way that suits you.

Damelin Correspondence technical college offers six national technical certificates (N1-N3):

Once you have completed one of these technical certificates, Damelin also offers national diploma (N4-N6) courses, which makes you able to fully qualify through one institution.

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Not being able to complete matric doesn’t mean you cannot become a qualified member of society. National Technical Certificates and other vocational training teaches you skills that are invaluable in many industries. This will help you to ensure that you always have a well-paying job. These qualifications are often very affordable and open to people of all ages, with matric or without. It is never too late to become qualified in something that really interests you.

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