What is a Postgraduate Degree?

Do you fancy becoming more qualified in an area or simply biding your time while things in the world of work pick up? Gaining a Master’s/Postgraduate degree would be very wise indeed. It opens doors, it allows you to specialise in one topic, enhance your intelligence of the topic. It can also enable you to pursue a PhD. Both Master’s/Postgraduate degrees and a PhD will be explained in this article as we ask, What is a Postgraduate Degree? 

What is a Master’s Degree?

A Master’s/Postgraduate Degree is a qualification which is above Bachelors Level but below PhDs. Study is intense and usually a candidate is required to complete a series of modules, assignments and a dissertation. Usually, a full-time master’s study requires one or two years to complete while part-time can last between two and four years. It is more flexible than an undergraduate study in terms of study options, and modules. However, academic demands and high costs can mean that a postgraduate course is not for everybody so it is important to research your options thoroughly before you decide to opt for this area. 

A person can graduate with a Master’s degree by either completing a research or taught course. Master’s obtained through taught modules are based on a person’s self-study. They usually take place through seminars, tutorials and supervised lab classes. Your self-study is important. However, you do receive plenty of guidance and support from tutors. 

The different courses vary from Law and Architecture right through to Education if you would like to pursue teaching as a vocation. Research courses involve much more independent work from the student themselves. It intends on producing new ideas to human knowledge. The areas of research programmes include a Masters in Research (MRes), Masters in Philosophy (MPHIL), which usually takes two years for students to complete, while the highest research degree is a Doctor of Philosophy, which takes a minimum of 3 years to complete.    

Courses such as Master of Engineering are taken after the completion of the related undergraduate course. Those master’s programs act as a crucial part of the qualification path. If someone aspires to become an Engineer he or she must complete the courses required to get the necessary degree. Specialising in a specific career choice, such as Medical or Law professionals, are what other masters courses are about.

There are also master’s courses for graduates who desire to re-train in a different subject even if they have a degree already. Most of these postgraduate courses are quite flexible. You could obtain an MA in Journalism without having to have studied Journalism as an undergraduate. Other suitable degree subjects include English, Media Studies or most other Arts subjects. 

What is a PhD?

PhDs are the highest degree level that a student can obtain. It shows that they have made important contributions to their field of study. They independently conduct research significant to a specific field or subject before subsequently producing a publishable thesis/dissertation between 60,000 and 90,000 words. Universities such as Cambridge have set their word count at 80,000.  PhD students are normally assessed on the originality of their thesis argument which is presented in their independent research project. 

Full-time PhDs usually take 3 to 4 years to complete while part-time PhDs can take 6 to 7 years to complete. The thesis deadlines can be extended by up to 4 years at the university’s discretion. Here is a breakdown of the pattern a three-year PhD may follow:

First Year: Here you will meet with your supervisor and discuss your research proposal and make an action plan with set deadlines before subsequently completing your literature review where you will evaluate existing works ensuring your research is original. 

Second Year: This is about gathering results and developing your thesis project before potentially beginning to write your opening chapters. You could also present your results at an academic conference and collaborate with other students on similar research projects, communicating the benefits of your research to the general public through workshops and presentations or submit your material to an academic book or journal. 

Third Year: This usually involves writing your thesis. After you get approval from your supervisor you will submit your thesis before undertaking a 1 to 3 hour oral exam where you will discuss and explain your thesis in front of an internal and external examiner. 

For this PhD study it is important to consider the subject that you are interested in researching and investigating. You will also need to make sure that this is the right project for you. It is important to consider what type of Doctorate you are looking for. The types of Doctorate include: Higher Doctorate, New Route PhD and Professional Doctorate. 

Again, cost is a key factor in most UK Universities. It can cost between £3,000 and £6,000 per year in tuition fees.   

Where do Postgraduate Diplomas lie?

Teaching is one of the main professions in the UK. It is also one of the many jobs that require a Postgraduate Diploma. This diploma permits those who did not study teaching to meet its requirements. This type of diploma is a taught course that does not include a thesis or dissertation. They are ideal if you want to boost your career prospects but are not interested in doing a lot of academic research. They are popular qualifications for students coming straight from an undergraduate programme and professionals looking to improve their CV or change their career. 

The abbreviations used by universities for postgraduate diplomas and certificates vary:

  • PGDip – PgDip, PG Dip, PGD and PgD.
  • PGCert – PgCert, PG Cert, PGC and PgC.


To Wrap It All Up…

Postgraduate degrees are for those who wish to retrain, specialize or develop advanced skills after having finished an undergraduate degree. The chance to grasp a thorough understanding of a subject is given to students who wish to continue their postgraduate studies and possibly progress even further. 

Postgrad.co.uk provides information about postgraduate courses and study in the UK. We list thousands of postgraduate courses from universities and colleges in the UK so you can search for the course of your choice. 

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