Maybe you want to continue with university life for another year or more, or perhaps you’ve a perfect career in mind that needs further qualifications. Once you’ve completed your undergraduate degree, these are the most common qualifications available to you:

Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates

Postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) and certificates (PGcert) are at an education level in between your Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s. A PGCert is worth one third of a Master’s degree whilst a PGDip is worth two thirds. They are very popular with students carrying on from their undergraduate degree as well as professionals looking to upskill or change careers. 

They are also a great way to assess whether postgraduate study is right for you. Postgraduate qualifications require more independent learning, specialist knowledge and are more intense, so they are not for everyone. If you do enjoy it, you can always continue onto a Master’s degree, and both qualifications will count towards it.

PGDips and PGCerts can involve a mixture of academic and vocational learning - teaching is typically through lectures, seminars and practical assignments - and you’ll be assessed primarily through essays and practical work. Luckily for you there’s also no dissertation at the end of it!

PGDips and PGCerts are available in most subjects and they’re especially a great choice if you think a postgraduate qualification will boost your career prospects, but you aren't interested in undertaking significant amounts of academic research.

Some careers, such as teaching, require a PGCert to enter the profession.

Most PGCerts and PGDips are undertake full-time, however there are often opportunities for part-time study or distance learning. 

You’ll need a 2.2 or above to enter, although entry requirements do depend on the course and university, and some can be very competitive. 

As they are shorter than a Master’s degree, they also cost less, however they are not covered by the government’s postgraduate loan scheme, so you’ll have to find the money yourself to pay for your qualification. 

You can apply for a PGCert or PGDip in much the same way as a Master’s degree, and we’ve more information on that here. 

Master’s Degrees

A Master’s degree is the qualification above your undergraduate degree but below that of a PhD. It involves intense studying, through a series of modules culminating in the writing of a dissertation. 

Master’s degrees are a great choice if you are interested in continuing your education and enjoy the academic life, and they can also great improve your career prospects. However, as they are intense, they are not for everyone, so make sure you do your research and speak to current students before you embark on a course. 

Study is available both full-time and part-time and you may also be able to access online or distance learning depending on the course you’ve chosen. Courses normally begin in September or October, although there are a few that start in January or February. 

Master’s degrees are all about the independent study, and contact time is limited, with teaching methods including seminars, lectures and workshops. Instead you’ll be required to work between at least 30 to 35 hours of your own time with assessment methods including practical assignments, essays, presentations, portfolios, and a dissertation. Upon completion, you’ll gain either a pass, merit or distinction, in much the same way as an undergraduate third, second or first. 

Master’s degrees are available in most subjects, and require a 2.2 or above to enter, although entry requirements do depend on the course and university, and some can be very competitive. You don’t necessarily have to have just finished your undergraduate degree to enter a Master’s course, you could also be looking to unskilled or retrain at a later point in your life. 

Fees also vary considerably depending on the course and university, and can range from as little as £4,900 a year to over £30,000. Luckily, you can apply for government funding for a Master’s degree which offer up to £11,222. 

Although most of the Master’s degrees you’ll find are taught Master’s, you should also consider research Master’s. They are even more independent in nature. In a research Master’s degree, you won’t have as many timetabled units, you may in fact have none, and instead you’ll focus on an extended project guided by an expert supervisor. Your year will culminate in a dissertation. Research Master’s degrees are a great choice if you are looking to enter into academia and undertake a PhD on completion. 

If you are looking to apply for a Master’s degree or want to decide what they best subject for you to study is, we’ve all the information you need to get started!

Doctorates

If you are still not yet sick of education, doctorates are your next port of call. We’ve divided them up into two categories to make it easier for you.

PhDs

PhDs (also known as Doctors of Philosophy) are degrees awarded to individuals who complete a body of independent and original research work culminating in a thesis - a 60,000 to 90,000-word document of their research.

They typically last between three of four years of research at the university, after which you’ll complete your thesis. Once completed, you’ll then need to defend your PhD thesis in front of a panel of examiners in what’s known as a viva voce.

Most universities require you to have completed a Master’s degree to be considered for an PhD, however in some circumstances you can apply for an integrated PhD which includes a research Master’s as an extra year. 

Courses often begin in the Autumn, however there are plenty of opportunities at any time of year to start a PhD. If you’re struggling to find out where to find PhD placements, or how to apply there’s no better place to start.

Tuition fees for PhDs aren’t fixed and many are part or fully funded by scholarships, bursaries and grants. If you are not one of those lucky enough to be awarded funding, you are also entitled to the government Doctoral Loan. Furthermore, many PhD students take on undergraduate teaching  to supplement their income. 

PhDs are a great choice if you are looking to enter the world of academia. If so, your next steps will be postdoctoral study, followed by a fellowship or lectureship. However, you can also enter other industries off the back of a PhD, depending on your subject area. 

Professional Doctorates

Alongside PhDs, there are Professional Doctorates. These are qualifications available for current professionals in vocational sectors such as healthcare, teaching and education, and engineering and manufacturing. Doctorates include a significant taught component and a smaller research project.

Professional Doctorates often revolve around real-life issues you face in the workplace, and during your study you will be required to put what you’ve been taught in the classroom into your professional practice and evaluate it.

Professional Doctorates are often taken on a part-time basis and can last between two and eight years. Entry requirements depend on your specialism, however in some cases it will be possible to pursue a Doctorate based on your professional experience.