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Postgraduate courses explained

Wondering how studying a postgraduate course can get you the qualifications you need for your career? Read on to find out more.

Who are they for?

Postgraduate courses are for people who want to continue their studies in higher education, after they’ve graduated with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification. They are normally studied as postgraduate certificates and diplomas or master’s degrees.

How do they work?

Most postgraduate courses are taught at university, although some can be studied as a distance learning course. Master’s degrees tend to be more academic than other postgraduate courses, which often involve more vocational subjects. Postgraduate courses normally put more emphasis on your own independent research than bachelor’s degrees, so alongside studying in lectures and seminars you’ll probably be expected to produce your own research project or dissertation and take exams. Postgraduate courses are normally marked with ‘distinction’ as the highest mark, then ‘merit’ and then a basic ‘pass’ before ‘fail’.

What can I study?

Universities may offer as many subjects at master’s and postgraduate level as they do as bachelor’s degrees. Some people choose to study the same subject they did for their bachelor’s degree in more detail, while others might move into a related area, like social work if they’ve studied psychology. But if you’ve changed your mind about what you want to study after your bachelor’s degree, some subjects like business, law and medicine offer ‘conversion’ courses, which aim to teach the main parts of an undergraduate degree in a shorter amount of time.

How long does it take to study a postgraduate course?

Most master’s degrees last for a year if you study them full-time, or two years part-time. Other postgraduate certificates and diplomas normally last between nine months and a year full-time, or longer if you study them part-time.

Where can they lead?

Like bachelor’s degrees, master’s and postgraduate courses can provide you with further training for a specific job, and give you more general skills for a range of careers. Some employers might even pay for you to do a postgraduate course part-time as part of your training with them. Or you could stay at university to study your chosen subject in more detail, as a member of the university’s research department or working towards a doctorate or PhD.

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