A qualification is a formally recognised award for educational or training attainment. Formal recognition means that the qualification is approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority or any formally recognised existing approval body in New Zealand or overseas, or their predecessors or any previous approval body.

A qualification is defined as requiring full-time equivalent study of three months or more. Study time is an estimate of the typical time it takes a learner to achieve the learning outcomes of the qualification. This includes direct contact time with teachers and trainers, as well as time spent in studying, assignments, and assessment.

See also 'Highest qualification', 'Highest secondary school qualification', 'Post-school qualification', and ‘Study participation’ in this definitions group.