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Guide to the PGDip

The PGDip, short for Postgraduate Diploma, is a postgraduate level qualification that is perfect for students or professionals who are looking to complete their studies over a shorter time than usual. Here you can find all the information you’ll need to learn about the PGDip and whether it’s the best study option for you. 


What is a PGDip and why study for one? 

A PGDip is a postgraduate qualification that allows students to build academic knowledge or professional skills at a master’s level. They are a higher level than a bachelor’s degree and a PGDip, but worth less than a master’s degree. They’re worth 120 credits, which is two thirds of a master’s degree, and are typically two thirds of the length of one too. You’ll be able to study a PGDip across most subjects and at the majority of higher education institutions. 

Many universities offer PGDips as an option within a full master’s programme, so you can learn from the same curriculum and gain the same experience as a master’s student on that course. In many cases you can choose to extend your PGDip into a master’s degree, continuing your studies towards a higher qualification. 

The main benefit of a PGDip compared to a master’s degree is the fact that it takes less time to study, usually two terms (30 weeks) compared to a master’s three terms (45 weeks). They’re especially useful for students looking to get a qualification without having to do a dissertation or sit exams. You might choose to study a PGDip rather than a PGCert to get more in-depth knowledge of your chosen area or prepare for a dissertation, allowing you to convert your efforts into a master’s degree qualification. 

As a professional, PGDips are a common option for you to undertake continued development or pursue a career change, and are often sponsored by your employer. 

What PGDip courses are there? 

PGDip courses are available for most subjects. Many master’s degree programmes will also offer a PGDip variant that you can study. 

You’ll often be able to choose from a mix of study patterns, such as full- and part-time PGDips, as well as different delivery methods like hybrid or fully remote courses. 

The course you’ll choose for your PGDip can be in one of three categories: 

  • Academic PGDips which focus on teaching, coursework and seminars to develop subject expertise or prepare for further study towards a full master’s degree 
  • Vocational PGDips, designed to effectively build professional skills in your discipline in a short space of time 
  • Professional PGDips, designed for qualifying for professions in certain regulated disciplines like law or education 

How long is a PGDip and when do they start? 

A full time PGDip typically lasts for two terms in the UK, which is two thirds of a UK master’s degree. They can last longer in some instances, depending on the subject and structure of the course. Part-time PGDips can take up to four terms, depending on the study pattern that you choose and the full-time length of the course. 

Start times for postgraduate diplomas are usually aligned to those for master’s degrees. Most will start in the autumn, generally September or October, but you might also find courses starting in January. 

What are the entry requirements for a PGDip? 

To get onto a PGDip, you’ll usually need to meet the same entry requirements as you would for the equivalent master’s degree. In most cases you’ll need at least a 2:2 or more in your undergraduate degree. Having a bachelor’s in a related subject will be beneficial to your application in most cases, but it’s not unusual for students to do postgraduate diplomas in a different area to their undergraduate, particularly if they’re looking to change their academic or professional direction. 

A higher grade at undergraduate level will always help your application succeed. A minimum amount of professional experience might be required for some PGDip courses. You’ll need to have a good personal statement to ensure a successful application for your chosen diploma. 

How much does a PGDip cost? 

Due to their shorter length, you’ll usually pay less for a PGDip than a full master’s degree. 

PGDip qualifications typically average around £5,000 for tuition, but this can vary. For example, the PGDip in Management, Practice and Law in Architecture from the University of Brighton costs £2,250, while the PGDip in Legal Studies from the University of Cambridge costs £12,525. 

What funding is there for PGDips? 

While they are usually significantly less costly than a full master’s, the funding options for postgraduate diplomas are also more limited. 

Many of the scholarships and bursaries available for postgraduate students are targeted at master’s degree students. In addition to this, you won’t be eligible for UK government postgraduate loans if you’re doing a PGDip. 

There are still options, however. It’s common for students doing a PGDip to acquire funding through their employer, in the form of sponsorship or in some cases as part of an employer’s graduate scheme. If you aren’t a professional looking to get another qualification with employer support, you can still access funding options. These include alumni tuition discounts, PGDip-specific funding from your chosen institution in some circumstances, or government loans if you’re a resident of Northern Ireland. 

Go to: Read the ULTIMATE Guide to Postgraduate Funding

What jobs can you do with a PGDip? 

PGDips are a great way to prepare for a successful career or stand out against other graduates who only have a bachelor’s degree. 

Postgraduate diplomas are often vocational in nature, and the relative lack of research activity or dissertation writing involved means you can spend more of your time learning practical, real-world skills. 

They’re particularly suited to professions in education, nursing, social work and medical disciplines. 

If you’re already part way along your chosen career path, a PGDip might be a good way for you to unlock promotions or transition into a related field within your discipline. 

Which PGDips are in most demand? 

PGDips for vocational professions are usually valued by employers looking for graduates that have demonstrated they can go the extra mile to build job-relevant skills. Postgraduate diplomas related to certain professions or professional skills, like management, are often funded by employers. 

In line with other types of postgraduate qualifications, PGDips in certain disciplines will always be valued. As well as law and social sciences, medical and medical related subjects like veterinary science or medical technology are often in demand. Engineering, computer science and other tech subject also tend to be valued by employers in the current market. 

A PGDip is a good way to demonstrate your commitment to further learning and development across a wide range of subjects. 

When to apply for a PGDip 

You can normally submit an application for your chosen PGDip course all year round. Course administrators will often accept applications until the programme is full for that entry point, at which time they’ll defer further applications to the next entry point. As a result, submitting your application promptly and with enough time before your desired start date is advisable. This will also allow you enough time to make applications to other courses if you aren’t successful at first. Admission may be competitively assessed for more popular courses or filled on a first come, first serve basis. 

Three months is the minimum amount of time you’ll usually want to give yourself between applying and the start of your chosen course – however, six months is often best. 

It’s always worth consulting the application schedule for your chosen PGDip course to get specific details. 

How is a PGDip graded? 

Your PGDip can be assessed in several different ways, such as through graded coursework, group projects or presentations. You won’t be asked to sit exams or complete a dissertation in most cases. 

The grade boundaries for postgraduate diplomas are usually in parallel with those set out for master’s degree assessments. Overall scores and grades are typically as follows: 

  • Distinction - 70% or higher 
  • Merit – 60% to 69% 
  • Pass – 50% to 59% 
  • Borderline pass or fail – 40% to 49% 

Your university or course may use slightly different grading boundaries to these, so it’s always worth checking with your course administrators. 

Next: Search f or PGDip courses


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