Understanding Postgraduate Qualifications

Written by DAS Editor

After you have finished your undergraduate degree, you might be interested in studying further for a postgraduate qualification. While some graduates prefer to get straight into the world of work and begin their career, others want to continue learning and gaining specialist knowledge.

Most people have heard of doing a master’s degree, but there are other qualifications. This guide will discuss why you might consider doing a postgraduate qualification and break down the different types.

Why study for a postgraduate qualification? 

Doing a postgraduate qualification is a big commitment; they often cost a lot of money and are academically challenging. Because of this, you must consider why you want to do further study before you start. Even if you enjoyed your undergraduate degree and gained a lot from the experience, it doesn’t mean that you will feel the same about a postgraduate qualification.

However, doing a postgraduate qualification is a challenging but extremely rewarding step in their education and career for many people. Here are some reasons why you might choose to do another qualification:

  • Expand your knowledge and gain a specialised understanding of your subject.
  • Train for a specific career that requires a postgraduate qualification.
  • Develop a career in academia and a university environment
  • Increase your employability and overall employment prospects
  • Develop a passion or interest you have.

Types of qualifications 

Master’s Degree

This is the most common and most well-known form of postgraduate qualifications. Master’s degrees tend to be one year full-time or two years part-time; however, they can vary from course to course. You can do a master’s degrees in a range of broad to niche subjects at universities across the UK. They are seen as a natural progression from an undergraduate degree and can help boost your employability as a graduate.

The majority of master’s programmes require a 2:1 in your undergraduate degree. Some courses will still accept those who have a 2:2 or lower, especially if the masters are integrated with employment.


A PhD, or a Doctor of Philosophy, is the qualification level above a master’s; however, you do not necessarily need to have a master’s degree to start a PhD. Doing a PhD is a huge life commitment, and it usually takes around 3 to 4 years of studying to complete. The qualification is based on your PhD thesis or dissertation, which involves extensive original, expert research on your chosen topic. Many people return to PhD’s long after leaving education due to the level of commitment and knowledge required.

Postgraduate Diploma

A postgraduate diploma is at the same academic level as a master’s degree, which means it follows an undergraduate degree; however, they tend to be shorter. A postgraduate diploma has fewer credits than a full master’s degree and doesn’t usually involve a full thesis or dissertation. A postgraduate diploma is excellent if you want to continue studying and increasing your job prospects, but you don’t want to commit to a full master’s programme. Some people begin a master’s course but transfer it to a postgraduate diploma if they cannot finish.

Teacher training qualification 

A graduate might go on to study for a postgraduate qualification if they want to become a teacher. This qualification is a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) and is part of your teacher training programme. These courses are offered by universities and combine practical experience in teaching with academic knowledge. They take between one and two years to complete.

To find out more about postgraduate study, visit the guide on our website.

Last Updated: Wednesday March 31 2021
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