STUDYING for a diploma is a faster pathway to start a career as it equips students with specific competencies and practical skills in courses that usually takes two to three years to complete.
The graduates can also be well-prepared should they choose to further their studies to degree level after gaining some working experience.
Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) academic planning and development director Associate Professor Dr Muhammad Fahmi Miskon said diploma programmes were usually tailored to industry needs.
A diploma is advantageous over other pre-university programmes as it is recognised for employment, he highlighted.
“According to the 2018/2019 Malaysian Critical Occupations List (COL), among the promising fields for diploma holders are electrical, electronics, mechanical and manufacturing engineering,” Fahmi noted.
“Engineering diploma graduates have wide career opportunities. They can work as electrical engineering technicians, CAD/CAM technicians, manufacturing supervisors and robotics technicians. Based on 2019 tracer studies, nearly 15 per cent of UTeM diploma graduates have found employment while the rest opted to continue to a degree,” he said.
INTI International University and Colleges chief academic officer Dr Daniel Tan said diploma programmes were more accessible and offered immediate specialisation to support employment.
“Based on the COL, graphic designers, for instance, were reported to be in the top 10 jobs in demand. Diploma seems to be the best route for a student keen on pursuing the arts given that you can be employed immediately.
“This route is cost-effective and accessible for secondary school leavers. Taking it into consideration while observing market demands and economic trends, a diploma is beneficial for those who are passionate in becoming creative, business and service professionals.”
Tan said various diploma programmes have been infused with industry initiatives, giving students the knowledge and competencies needed to excel in the workplace.
According to Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Student Intake Division director Mohd Najib Mohd Sarif, diploma graduates can easily enrol in the university’s undergraduate programmes.
“UiTM diploma graduates can directly apply for a degree here during their final year without having to compete with other applicants.
“Credits from a completed diploma study will be taken into account to fulfil a degree programme’s requirements. The number of transferable credits is based on the courses taken and their relevance.”
Diploma programmes also have a financial edge as students are eligible for the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), which is not available for other pre-university programmes.
Applications to diploma programmes at public higher-learning institutions can be submitted through the Central University Admission Unit online portal (UPUOnline).
Compared to foundation and matriculation courses, diploma options are vast and flexible.
“UiTM offers 74 diploma programmes, ranging from actuarial science to pharmacy and music, from 24 faculties and two academic centres. Students can also study for a diploma part-time,” said Najib.
UCSI University deputy vice-chancellor (academic, student and alumni affairs) Associate Professor Dr Jimmy Mok Vee Hoong said diploma programmes are more skill-focused.
“I believe industry players are looking for graduates with skills. Diploma students essentially develop a prowess in skills and theory equally, compared with students from foundation, STPM or A Level.
“Candidates looking for a pathway more affordable than foundation or those who want to work sooner may consider the diploma route. I would encourage candidates with three to four credits to enrol in their diploma programme of choice,” said Mok.
INTI International College Subang hotel management diploma graduate Lee Soon Hock, 26, said his diploma experience helped to improve his leadership skills, which were crucial in his role as the front office supervisor at the Crockfords Hotel, Genting Highlands.
“During my diploma, I managed a sports event as part of my coursework where I was responsible for seeking sponsorship and leading a team. It pushed me to grow as a leader and honed my interpersonal skills.
“I currently lead a team in assessing and managing all of our guests’ needs to create an enjoyable hotel experience. This requires me to demonstrate quick problem-solving abilities, and high interpersonal and communication skills consistently.”
Currently working as a designer, INTI International College Subang interior design diploma alumnus Wezian Ho, 24, said the programme allowed him to apply technical and creative skills.
“Apart from learning the fundamentals of design, I also gained industry exposure through my compulsory internship.
“This experience helped me to gain insight into how the design industry works from early on. It also helped me develop my professional goals and understand my career direction,” said Ho.
UiTM business administration (Business Economics) degree student Siti Nadjida Abd Talib, 25, previously graduated with a diploma.
“I was accepted into matriculation, but I opted for a diploma because I was no longer interested in science. Diploma was an experiment to see if the course was for me.”
Post-diploma, she gained some working experience before continuing her studies.
“Entering the workforce, I applied the management theories that I learnt in class. My diploma really helped me in working at an organisation.”
PATHWAY TO DEGREE
The diploma provides a comprehensive pathway to transition from school to university.
Siti Nadjida said: “My love for economics was nurtured during my diploma studies.
“The experience prepared me mentally to adapt to my degree life. I encountered key management aspects in my diploma subjects, namely human resource, insurance and risks, economics and marketing.”
After completing a diploma in aquaculture with entrepreneurship at UCSI, Mathias Bee Wei Min, 22, is pursuing a degree in aquatic science at the same university.
He saw diploma as the right choice as he was certain of his academic interest.
“I knew that the programme and its comprehensive syllabus would provide a clearer foundation for me. I was able to transition easily into this degree because during my diploma, I was exposed to simple research projects, presentations and aquatic science activities. I felt confident as I could catch up with my studies easily.
“I underwent two internships at aquaculture farms. I could put theories into practice, such as managing the feeding and filtration for cultured fish in two different aquaculture systems,” said Bee.
Normi Diana Hai Shah Hairi, 22, studied for a diploma in electronic engineering before pursuing a degree in the same field at UTeM.
“Focusing on a specific field, the diploma studies had exposed me to hands-on experience through lab sessions, site visits and projects. The subjects were related to my degree course.
“During my internship, I was troubleshooting electronic components and learning about pneumatic and hydraulic circuits that are used in the industry, which prepared me for my degree studies,” she said.