Types of postgraduate qualifications


There are several different types of postgraduate courses available. This guide can help you to decide which type of course suits you best.


Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma (PGCert / PGDip)

A PGCert or PGDip is a shorter less extensive course of study at the Masters level. It can be useful for anyone who doesn't want to commit to a full year of study or who has a very specialised interest in just a few modules on a course. Both qualifications will in general omit the research element of a course but follow the same taught modules as the Masters.


Master of arts (MA) or Master of science (MSc)

These are taught courses which usually last one to two years full time or two to three years part-time. The taught element is usually quite significant and these courses will end with a research project and dissertation. Teaching can also include seminars, lectures, oral work, tutorials, project work and exams.


Master of Research (MRes)

This type of degree has a larger research element which is supervised by an experienced academic but will still have a fairly large taught element. This course is suitable for someone who may want to continue with a PhD or a career in research.


Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

An MPhil is a research only degree, similar in academic quality to that of a PhD but shorter in length, so it is suited to those who can't commit to the lengthy period of study. It is often a precursor to a PhD or a career in research. The course will include the production of a thesis and an oral examination to demonstrate your research skills, knowledge and understanding of your subject area.


Master of Laws (LLM)

The Master of Laws is a one year full time course which law students and professionals may study to have the opportunity to specialise in one particular field. It is not a requirement to hold an LLM to practice law and in most cases an LLM student will have gained a professional law degree such as an LLB in the UK.


Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MBA is aimed at management professionals who already have a few years of business experience. They are usually fairly expensive, intensive and designed to create the business leaders of the future. Length of study can be from a year to 18 months full time, or up to six years part-time. Course costs can vary but typically a UK MBA course will start at around £10,000 and can rise to upwards of £50,000.


Professional Doctorate

A professional doctorate is usually a part-time course for experienced professionals to carry out some research related to their profession, as well as a a taught element. On completing a professional doctorate, students are entitled to call themselves Dr.



A PhD is seen as the highest qualification a student can achieve. A PhD is based on the student carrying out original research and this type of qualification is usually required by those wishing to lecture or teach in universities although it is now also valued in other career sectors too.