Certificates and Diplomas

Below is a quick guide to postgraduate diplomas and certificates. These are often shorted to PGDip (Postgraduate diploma) and PGCert (Postgraduate Certificate) and they are a fantastic route for those who are short on time and or funds in comparison to a masters course. They allow you to gain a masters level of knowledge without having to go through the big effort of creating a dissertation.

What are postgraduate diplomas and certificates?

These are short postgraduate courses which go beyond undergraduate-level content and equip you a master's level of understanding and specialist knowledge. There are many different subject areas you can study and many universities offer PGCert and PGDip qualifications.

What’s the difference between a Diploma and Certificate Course?

The main difference between a PGCert and a PGDip is that a diploma takes longer as it’s worth more credits. A PGCert is the very shortest postgraduate qualification that you can currently study for.

These generally fall into one of three types:

Graduate Diplomas: sometimes offered for students who have a degree but do not have the specific area of expertise to undertake a particular, usually very specialist, masters degree offered by the same institution.

Postgraduate Certificates: the most well-known of these is the PGCE, required for teaching in most schools in the UK. Students must generally have a first degree.

Postgraduate Diplomas: these tend to be either:

  • Professionally or vocationally related, and provide a mix of additional academic knowledge and professional expertise that students need to enter a profession, or
  • A prerequisite for a specialist masters course, usually offered by the same institution, or
  • The taught elements only of a masters programme: in this case, the student follows the same courses as the masters students but omits the research project or dissertation that follows the examinations or assessments.

ThinkPostgrad: Postgraduate certificates and diplomas are often linked either to other qualifications and courses, or to a profession. It is useful to clarify these links, and whether the course you take needs to be accredited by a particular professional body, as well as whether other qualifications may be required subsequently, before applying for this type of course.

What are the benefits of a diploma and a certificate?

Because PGCerts and PGDips are as challenging as parts of a master's degree they have many benefits for students which can help further their careers or job prospects. The specialised skills which are learned through these short courses are often vocational which can help with career advancement. They are often seen as a great way to achieve a sense of personal satisfaction as they can be obtained relatively quickly and imbue a sense of accomplishment. Studying for a diploma or certificate also provides an opportunity to expand your network with others in the industry or profession.

Who should study for a Postgraduate Certificate or diploma?

PGCerts and PGDips are an excellent choice for those who do have the time to study for a full master's programme which can take 2 or more years.

How long does a PGDip take?

A PGDip takes longer than a certificate as it’s worth more credits. This postgraduate qualification typically takes around 30 weeks to complete, which is roughly 2 full terms.

How long does a PGCert take?

A PGCert is a very short course which you can earn within the space of a single term. This usually take around 15 weeks to complete when studying it full-time.

You can start looking now for masters course opportunities with funding on PostgraduateStudentships, or for masters courses in your subject area on MastersCompare.