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Difference between Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters degree in the UK

Are you a graduate and planning to pursue post-graduation in the UK? The first question that hits your mind is, which one among the postgraduate “certificate”, “diploma” and “masters” degree will help you achieve your career goals easily and efficiently.

Well, we have come up with the best answer for that very question.

What are Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates?

Postgraduate diplomas and certificates are short term, vocational courses offered by different universities in the UK which can help boost your career prospects and provide you with the required skills. They offer practical and advanced information than a bachelor’s degree.

They are beneficial if you want to pursue a postgraduate level course in the UK but do not want to go for any kind of academic research. Also, the post-graduate diplomas and certificates are a better option if you are a working professional and want to change your career. Please note that many of the diplomas and degrees are available as online courses and you can do them from your home country as well.

Below are the few advantages of the postgraduate diplomas and certificates-

  • They add to your CV
  • They take less time to complete
  • They are available in a wide range of subjects
  • They are less expensive compared to a master’s degree
  • They are focused on a few subjects in a particular field and are more precise
  • They can help improve your career prospects and income
  • They may be designed as academic, vocational and professional training programs

What are the main differences between postgraduate diplomas and certificates?

Postgraduate diplomas and certificates in the UK are similar to each other in terms of being short term courses but bear a few differences as well. Let’s have a look at them -

  • The full-time diplomas in the UK are usually of two terms (30 weeks) while the certificate courses are of only one term (15 weeks)
  • For some professionals, diplomas are a must credential or license to work in a particular field
  • In the UK, diplomas can be upgraded to masters if combined with a research work while certificates do not provide such benefits
  • Other major difference in diplomas and certificates is that while you are enrolled in a particular certificate course, you can also pursue a masters degree but this is not possible in case of diplomas

What is a masters degree?

A masters degree, specifically in UK universities, is a full-time course (usually 1 year) in a particular field involving intense study with a series of modules and a dissertation (research work). A masters degree can be done through a taught process as in the case of Master of Art (MA), Master of Science (MSc) etc. or through a research process as in the case of Master of Research (MRes).

What are the major differences between postgraduate certificates, diplomas and masters?

Major differences include:

  • Certificate and diploma courses can be completed in a short period of time while masters can be of 1 to 2 years duration.
  • Masters courses are far more expensive as compared to the certificate and diploma courses.
  • Masters courses lack flexibility and may need your full dedication while certificates and diplomas are more flexible, you can do them while continuing your job.
  • Masters courses include research work and writing a thesis which is otherwise not required in certificate and diploma courses.
  • In order to enrol in a masters course in the UK, you need a statement of purpose (SOP) which may/may not be required in case of postgraduate diplomas and certificate courses.
  • Masters provide general education about a particular discipline while certificate and diploma courses focus on specific skills.
  • Value of certificate and diploma courses is lesser than masters.
  • Many scholarships are available for masters courses but not for the diploma and certificate courses.
  • You can take an education loan for masters but not for pursuing postgraduate diplomas and certificate courses.
  • If you wish to pursue a PhD in your field in the UK, you need a masters degree for sure.
Terms 1 2 3 (2+Thesis)
60 *CATS/ 30 **ECTS 120 CATS/ 60 ECTS 180 CATS/ 120 ECTS
Average Fees (full-time courses) £8,000- £12,000 (~ INR 7-11 Lakhs) £10,000- £20,000 (~ INR 9-18 Lakhs) £15,000- £33,000 (~ INR 14-30 Lakhs)
No. of Modules 2 4 Vary
Thesis Not Required Not Required Required
Language Test
Required Required Required
May/may not
be required
Required Required
Statement of
May/may not
be required
May/may not be required Required
Letters of
May/may not
be required
May/may not be required Required
May/may not
be required
May/may not be required May/may not be required

*CATS - Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme

**ECTS - The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System

The above specifications are subject to change and may vary based on the course and university you choose

Aforementioned are a few other differences among the postgraduate certificate, diploma and masters degrees in the UK.

All three postgraduate degrees in the UK have their own advantages. Now that you know the difference between them, it will be easier for you to make an informed choice depending upon your preference of course, eligibility, requirements and career goals. If still in doubt, feel free to talk to our customer support team.

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