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What is a Postgraduate Certificate?

Thinking about studying for a Postgraduate Certificate (or PGCert for short) but want to know more about them before diving in? It is well worth your time doing plenty of research on qualifications prior to starting a course, as it can help you avoid any confusion or dissatisfaction in case the curriculum is not quite what you expected. Whether you’re certain you know what you’re doing or just starting your investigations, we’re sure this handy guide to all there is to know about PGCerts will come in very useful indeed. You’ll find out about how you’ll be studying, how much a PGCert costs, what subjects you’ll be able to study and more... 

What is a Postgraduate Certificate?

PGCerts are shorter courses, lasting from around four months to a year in length. They are ideal for those who wish to expand on their existing knowledge to improve their career prospects, or be used to top up existing qualifications.

Theses courses tend to be vocational in nature - with the fields of nursing, education and social work having the most PGCert courses on offer.

What’s the Difference Between a Postgraduate Certificate and a Postgraduate Diploma?

While they’re very similar, most PGCerts are shorter in length than Postgraduate Diplomas (PGDip). They usually equate to 15 weeks of study, while a PGDip will usually take around 30 weeks. One big notable exception of this is the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) which usually takes around a year to complete and will be studied full time.

Go to: Search for PGCE courses

When Can I Study for a Postgraduate Certificate?

As with PGDips, a PGCert usually follows a bachelor’s or undergraduate degree. They are Level 7 on the National Qualifications Framework.

Like a PGDip, sometimes you can convert PGCerts to master’s degrees depending on the subject and place of study.

Go to: Converting a Postgraduate Certificate to a Masters

Some certificates are designed as add-ons or follow-ups to something you already have an advanced qualification or career in. For example, you could study for a PGCert in Medical Education once you’re already a doctor.

What Subjects Can I Study?

Although not necessarily true for everybody, most will study a subject which is similar to whatever they studied as an undergraduate student. You can study for PGCerts in all manner of subjects - some of which are very niche and specific, others are a little broader. It’s very likely that the subject will be vocational, so it’s a great way to start, or advance, a career in something you have a passion for.

Some examples of subjects include Medical Ultrasound, Planning Practice, Healthcare and Leadership and Management, and Fashion: Buying and Merchandise.

What Kind of Structure Does a Postgraduate Certificate Follow?

Many PGCerts are designed with those who may already be in careers, or who have limited time available for study. Some courses will include very little teaching hours, but will be split up over a whole year, while others will be more intense. The PGCE is a full-time course, but others may only require a couple of hours a week or month.

How are Postgraduate Certificates Classified?

A PGCert can be usually split up into a pass, merit and distinction.

What Qualifications Do I Need to Study for a Postgraduate Certificate?

You’ll usually be expected to hold a degree of at least a 2:2. Some PGCerts may require a 2:1 – often the PGCE requires a 2:1 or above, but this will depend on subject.

If you have any relevant experience – for example if you’re returning to education after some years in a career – you may be able to bypass the need for such a high level of degree, or even the need to have one altogether in some cases.

Go to: How to Deal With a Postgrad Workload After a Long Break

How Much Does a Postgraduate Certificate Cost?

As with anything, costs can vary depending on the course length, the subject or the institution. However, the good news is that PGCerts generally cost a lot less than master’s degrees, and often less than PGDips too.

You’ll usually be looking at fees of around £3,000 to £5,000 – not cheap by any standards, but much cheaper than the £10,000+ a master's or PGDip can set you back. There are also plenty of courses which are cheaper than this, depending on the level of teaching and class time involved.

For some subjects you may also be eligible for grants and bursaries - this is worth checking with a course provider to see if it’s available and if you would qualify.

Go to: Search for postgraduate funding

How Do I Apply for a Postgraduate Certificate?

Generally speaking, you will apply for a PGCert directly via the university or course supplier. You should be able to find details of everything you’ll need to do to apply via the university's website, including the qualifications you’ll need, any statements or projects you’ll need to prepare, and how to pay the course fees.

It’s worth attending careers fairs and open days for any institution you’re thinking of attending before applying so you can get a feel for how the course will run and ask any questions you may have.

Next: Search Postgraduate Certificate courses


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