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Many of us feel tempted to arm ourselves with another qualification later in life, or to qualify in a different subject area to our initial degree choice. Postgraduate diplomas and postgraduate certificates are emerging as increasingly popular ways to do this. Why? Because they can be a time-friendly way to fast-track a change of career or qualify in a completely new field…
If you have a good bachelor’s degree under your belt and find your interest wandering to a new field of study, but don’t want to commit financially or practically to a more intensive master’s qualification, then a postgraduate certificate or postgraduate diploma course could be a interesting avenue to explore.
A surprising number of students choosing the one-year postgraduate diploma or certificate option are over 25; many are in their thirties, forties and even fifties. As they are often offered as a part-time option, it’s also possible to complete a postgraduate diploma or certificate course while working full-time.
Why take a postgraduate diploma or certificate?
Employees who already have a degree qualification and years of commercial experience under their belts are in a good position to retrain through a postgraduate certificate or diploma.
Taking a postgraduate qualification such as a law conversion or a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) can be a quick and intensive way to pursue a completely new discipline. Options are also available in a wide range of subject areas, however, like science and business. They allow graduates to study another subject at degree level, over a short time period.
You can study while you work, or take a one-year break to study. You can explore a completely different subject to your bachelor’s degree, or study your initial subject in more depth. If you balk at the prospect of taking another three years to achieve an additional degree qualification, then it’s certainly an avenue to explore in more detail. The courses are intensive and can be a springboard to a new career.
You can also use some postgraduate diplomas and postgraduate certificates to gain access to a master’s course, so this can often be an option if you feel that you’d like to pursue your chosen subject in more depth.
How long do postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas take?
Postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas usually take 6-12 months to complete full-time, but can occasionally be spread over a few years part-time (if you take a few modules each year). You will usually be required to attend lectures and seminars, with assessment through essays, exams and occasionally a dissertation.
Grades for postgraduate diplomas or certificates are usually awarded as either distinction, merit, pass or fail. Each ‘taught’ module usually has a 30-credit value; a postgraduate diploma usually consists of 120 credits in total (compared to the 180 credits needed for a master’s degree).
Students can achieve a postgraduate diploma with a minimum of 120 credit points (involving 30 weeks of full-time study, or an equivalent period of part-time study).
For a postgraduate certificate, you’ll need to achieve a minimum of 60 credit points (involving a minimum period of 15 weeks full-time study, or an equivalent period of part-time study).
Most postgraduate diploma or postgraduate certificate courses require a minimum of a lower second (2:2) bachelor’s degree. You’ll also have to be a graduate of a recognised university or comparable institution.
Entry requirements vary between institutions, but most universities expect you to be capable of managing the extra reading, essay planning and course structure of a degree. Both postgraduate diplomas and certificates require a high level of commitment.
If you’ve successfully completed a degree, then you’re likely to be able to cope with the academic pressures of a certificate or diploma. You’re also likely to have an existing interest in the subject and be more dedicated to your studies later in life.
Check specific entry requirements for PgDip and PgCert courses with individual institutions. Occasionally you may be required to take a bridging module or introductory-level course if your bachelor’s subject varies wildly from your chosen postgraduate subject.
How much does it cost?
Costs vary, but many institutions give you the option to pay per 30-credit module instead of one lump sum. Many postgraduate certificate and postgraduate diplomas aren’t as expensive as you might expect.
It’s worth remembering that a course like this can be a real investment in your future. A postgraduate diploma or a postgraduate certificate is a relatively quick and inexpensive way to grasp in-depth knowledge of a new discipline.
Examples of Popular Diploma courses
Advanced Nursing Postgraduate diploma
Postgraduate diploma in HR
Postgraduate diploma in Law
Postgraduate diploma in Marketing
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