Most of the time, when looking up further study, you’ll come across advice on either Masters Degrees or PhDs . But what if you don’t want something that time-intensive, or perhaps that research focused? Don’t worry – these aren’t the only two options for postgraduate study – there are a few others, one of which is a postgraduate diploma.
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A postgraduate diploma is a shorter qualification than a masters degree, although at the same academic level. Whereas a masters degree is made up of 180 credits (taken from exams, assignments, and so on), a postgraduate diploma is 120 credits. There is a shorter version of this too – a postgraduate certificate, which is 60 credits. There are a variety of courses that come under the heading of a postgraduate diploma – it can be a vocational course, such as a legal practice course, or an academic course.
With academic courses, the biggest difference between a postgraduate diploma and a masters degree is that a postgraduate diploma doesn’t involve having to do a dissertation. You will most likely be assessed by exams, assignments, coursework or a combination of these. Beyond this, however, you can expect the level of work required to be similar to other postgraduate courses, especially in terms of content.
With vocational courses, it depends very much on the subject, but the intent is that it will prepare you for a career in that area, so postgraduate diplomas in areas such as business, marketing and so on will not just be theoretical, but also practical.
Why, you may be asking, spend time on a studying a postgraduate diploma rather than simply doing a masters degree? Well, the reasons are many. Firstly, a postgraduate diploma can be useful for those already enrolled on a masters course, who may find their situation changes. In cases like this, it can be possible to graduate with a postgraduate diploma, rather than nothing. That, or perhaps after starting your masters, you realise in-depth research just isn’t your thing and decide not to do a dissertation. The option to graduate with a postgraduate diploma ensures that you haven’t spent six months and the rest of your studying to achieve nothing!
However, this doesn’t explain why you’d choose to do it in the first place. Well, as previously mentioned, many postgraduate diplomas are somewhat vocational. If you have a specific career goal in mind, it may be better for you to do a diploma aimed at this than a masters program. They’re particularly useful for those intending to practice law, or to go into teaching. There are often links to work programs, residential courses, or other such options that allow you to practice your career whilst gaining a qualification. These links to business are great for those with this goal in mind, as very often the work experience gained on a course can lead directly into paid employment.
In addition, the shorter length of time and lack of research makes them good for those wishing to gain a practical qualification to advance their careers, rather than perhaps to research a particular area. Due to their length, they’re easier to either take a career break for or to fit around a current job, which is great if your goal is to help with your job.
What about academic reasons though? Well, it’s a good in-between style degree for someone who may not be sure about going into academia, or perhaps who wants to study further but not to the extent a masters degree requires. It’s also good for moving into an area that may be linked to your undergraduate course, but not fully covered (for instance, religious studies after a philosophy degree).
As with most postgraduate degrees, a bachelors degree is required, or at least an advanced certificate in a relevant area (ie marketing). For those who may have been working, rather than studying, it is often possible to enter with relevant work experience, such as having been at marketing management level for a marketing diploma.
Not all universities offer postgraduate diplomas, so you will want to ensure you do your research thoroughly. Our A to Z of universities is a good place to start looking, but if your intention is to study a vocational style diploma (such as law) you are best looking at universities that specialise in these areas.
Overall, a postgraduate diploma is perfect for those of you wanting a qualification that can enhance your career, with practical aspects as well as theoretical – or those wishing to expand their knowledge without the commitment to research of a masters.