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Postgraduate Certificate Vs Masters

Torn between studying a postgraduate certificate (PGCert) or a master’s degree? Here’s how to decide based on how and what you want to learn.

You Should Study a Postgraduate Certificate If…

1. You Want to Get Your Qualification Quickly

Not got much time to spare? Then a PGCert is probably better for you. Most PGCert courses can be completed in around three months, which although requires an intensive period of studying, you’ll have a brand-new qualification to your name very quickly.

The only exception is if you study a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), but even this qualification only takes a year to finish if studied full time.

2. You Want to Study Something Vocational

Although postgraduate certificates can cover a range of subjects, you’ll find many institutions offer them more in vocational subjects such as business, engineeringdesign, construction and healthcare.

3. You’re Looking for Career Progression

PGCerts are great for expanding on existing knowledge for workplace purposes, as you can study certificates that are specifically for people already in certain careers.

For example, if you’re already working as a doctor, you can study a Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Education to expand your knowledge and open up potential medical shaped doors in the future.

4. You Don’t Want to Spend Much Money

Because your study period is much shorter, PGCerts tend to be much kinder to your wallets, costing on average around £3,000 - £5,000, nearly half the price of a master’s course.

There are courses which are even cheaper than this, however you may find there’s less teaching hours or a shorter term because of this, so it’s worth doing your research before splashing the cash.

5. You Want to Be a Teacher

If your dream is to teach, then you should definitely consider taking a PGCE.  A recognised teaching qualification which will take you from learning in a classroom to teaching in one, they take between 1-2 years to complete and are a mix of theory and practical learning, including being on placements in schools.

6. You Don’t Feel Ready for a Masters

Not sure if you’re ready to become a master’s student? A PGCert is the perfect way to gauge whether you want to pursue more education, or stop the uni life and enter the workplace instead.

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You Should Study a Masters If…

1. You Want to Study a PhD

If you want to prepare yourself for PhD study, then starting off with a master’s degree is a great idea. Not only will it get you back into the mentality of studying, but it’ll also give you an idea of the intensity of learning you’ll be expected to do at PhD level and get you used to it so it isn’t such a shock when you start your thesis.

2. You Can Study For At Least a Year

Master’s courses tend to take at least a year to complete, (more if you study it part-time) so if you’ve got a bit of extra time to spare, or can slot in at least a year of study alongside your career, then it’s definitely worth considering.  

3. You Want to Work Abroad

A master’s is internationally recognised, so if you’re after a qualification that can keep up with your globetrotting career, then it’s ideal for you as employers across the world will acknowledge it.

4. You Want Postgraduate Funding

Although scholarships, bursaries and loans exist for PGCerts, the government has specialist postgraduate loans for master’s students. Just like your undergraduate loan which you repay once you earn a set amount, you can receive up to £10,000 to finance your degree depending on your circumstances.

5. You Want a Similar Experience to Your Undergraduate Degree

Unlike the PGCerts, master’s degrees have a very similar formula to undergraduate courses. So, you’ll have lectures, seminars and at the end, a dissertation to write. They’re basically a more intense version of what you’ve already done.

6. You Like to Research

There are two types of master’s degree, taught and research based.

If you want to indulge your scientific side, then a master of Science degree is definitely for you. These courses will specialise in subjects like Maths, Physics and Chemistry and usually take around a year to complete.

7. You Enjoy Studying Humanities Subjects

Masters of Arts degrees cover humanities subjects like English, History or Media Studies specifically, and are ideal if you’ve studied (and enjoyed) humanities modules as an undergraduate.

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