Postgraduate qualifications

If you want to continue your studies after a bachelor's degree, or learn more about a particular subject, there are a range of postgraduate qualifications available. Some are linked to a specific profession, while others allow you to complete an original piece of research.

What a postgraduate qualification is

There are four main types of postgraduate qualifications:

  • postgraduate certificates
  • postgraduate diplomas
  • master's degrees
  • doctorates

Most types of postgraduate qualification will include taught and research elements. Normally, to study for a postgraduate qualification, you will need to have a bachelor's degree at 2:2 level or above. To find out the entrance requirements for a particular postgraduate course, visit the UCAS website.

Postgraduate diplomas and certificates

Postgraduate diplomas and certificates can be academic or vocational qualifications. They normally take nine to 12 months to complete full-time. The number of lectures and seminars you go to and projects and research papers you produce will vary depending on the type of course and the college or university you are at.

Subjects available

There are a wide variety of subjects to choose from. These are often linked to a specific profession. You can study a subject that's new to you, or choose a subject that builds on the knowledge and skills you gained during your bachelor's degree.


Grades are normally awarded as:

  • distinction
  • merit
  • pass
  • fail

Postgraduate certificates can lead on to postgraduate diplomas. You can also use a postgraduate certificate or diploma as a route into a specific career or onto further study, such as a master's degree.

Masters degrees

A master's degree is a qualification of academic study. It can be research based, a taught course, or a mixture of both and will take at least 12 months of full-time study to complete.

The number of lectures, seminars, projects and research papers will vary depending on the type of course and the institution. You may also have to send a dissertation at the end of your course.

Masters degrees available

The types of master's degrees available include:

  • MA: master of arts
  • MSc: master of science
  • MBA: master of business administration
  • LLM: master of law
  • MEd: master of education
  • MPhil: master of philosophy
  • MRes: master of research

Most master's degrees are normally awarded as:

  • distinction
  • merit
  • pass
  • fail

Some master's degrees, such as in business administration and law, prepare you for a career in a particular field. Others, like the master of research can prepare you for a doctorate qualification.


A doctorate qualification gives you the opportunity to do an original piece of research. It will usually take at least three years of full-time study to complete. Doctorate qualifications are offered by universities that have research opportunities.

Throughout the course, you will be expected to work independently with guidance from a supervisor.

During the first one to three years of your doctorate, you will research your chosen topic and plan your dissertation and in your final year, you will normally write up your dissertation.

Doctorates are usually awarded as either a pass or fail; in rare cases with a distinction.

Many doctorate courses lead to a qualification such as a doctor of philosophy - a PhD or Dphil.

Find out more

To find out more about getting a postgraduate qualification, contact individual universities and colleges, or visit their websites.

Some colleges have a postgraduate open day, which is a chance for you to meet prospective tutors or supervisors.

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