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Is there value in a graduate certificate or diploma?

Here are three reasons to help decide where postgraduate study could lead you

When considering a postgraduate degree, the choice isn’t only deciding whether to do a master’s degree (coursework) or a PhD (research) – there are other postgraduate study options that could help you achieve your goals. 

A crucial question to ask yourself is - what do you hope to achieve by pursuing postgraduate study?

At its core a postgraduate qualification can provide opportunity to take the next step in your career by upskilling and deepening your knowledge of a chosen field, or even launching into a new career direction. It may also be the catalyst for you to expand your horizons or pursue a personal ambition. Your motivations for postgraduate study are a useful guide when choosing which course is for you.

With this in mind, a graduate certificate or graduate diploma are valuable options to consider. Here are three key benefits of these courses you may not know. 

You can try out postgraduate study to your level of commitment

At first glance the key difference between a graduate certificate versus a graduate diploma versus a master’s degree is the duration. Generally speaking, a graduate certificate would take six months of full-time study, a graduate diploma one year, and a master’s degree one to two years.

What is often overlooked about a graduate certificate or diploma is that they are embedded qualifications - meaning they will count towards the higher qualification should you decide you’d like to expand your knowledge further. The units studied, and by extension your time and money, can all contribute towards the completion of the higher degree.

In effect these degrees give you more flexibility over your level of commitment. With a minimum of six months’ study, you can choose to complete your postgraduate qualification with a graduate certificate, or potentially progress to a diploma and/or master’s degree. 

You can invest to your needs 

Graduate certificates and graduate diplomas are usually a subset of the units offered in a master’s degree, which is part of the reason they are embedded courses.

A graduate certificate will typically offer you the essential or core units of study. This is a great option if you are looking to extend your existing knowledge base or upskill in a certain area.

Building on from the graduate certificate, a graduate diploma will provide you the additional units needed to expand or deepen your knowledge in your chosen study area. As a guide, a graduate diploma is typically one year of full-time study or 48 credit points. This is equivalent to what would constitute a major at the undergraduate level.

If you are looking to gain professional qualifications for your next job or to attain specialised knowledge and skills, then a master’s degree could be for you. Depending on the degree in question, you may be able to tailor the qualification to your specific interests with electives, or a research project and potentially gain entry into a PhD.

There’s no need to make the decision from the outset if you’re unsure. Start your study and gauge for yourself. 

Not eligible to apply for a master’s degree? You can still start one 

Not all pathways to a master’s degree are the same. If you have the intention of completing a master’s degree, but don’t meet the entry requirements, look to the embedded graduate certificate or graduate diploma.

These qualifications tend to have different entry requirements to the master's but can be considered for admission into the master’s degree upon successful completion.

It’s important to note that not all graduate certificates or graduate diplomas have exact equivalent master’s degrees. Check the information for your specific course or with the faculty if you’re unsure. 

Not sure which master's degree is for you? Almost one third of our graduate certificate and graduate diploma students for 2014-2016 upgraded to a higher degree - regardless of faculty or starting course. If you're looking for more direction, our course advisers will be available at postgraduate events throughout the year to provide advice on which course would be the most suitable.  

Last updated: 13 January 2020

19 April 2017

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