What's the difference between a Masters, PGDip and PGCert?

Tue 1 Dec 2020

Confused about which postgraduate qualification to choose? With so many different options, narrowing down the one that's right for you can feel a little overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown of each type of course and the reasons for taking them.


Masters (MA)

A masters degree is an advanced postgraduate course that typically takes 2 years to complete if you’re studying part-time. It is worth 180 academic credits and includes a final dissertation or major project. Internationally recognised by employers all over the world, a masters degree is a great stepping stone toward a PhD if you are interested in pursuing a career in academia. In an increasingly competitive job market, a masters degree can also give you a much-needed edge over other candidates.

You should consider a MA if:

  • Your goal is to prepare for a PhD or a career in academia.
  • You want to advance your career with an internationally recognised qualification.
  • You can commit to at least a year of full-time study or 2 years of part-time study.
  • You are considering working abroad.
  • You want to get postgraduate funding.

Thinking about your next steps? A master's can help you secure your financial future in today's uncertain job market:

Take a look >

Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip)

A postgraduate diploma is a shorter postgraduate study option that includes challenging masters level content but without the dissertation or major project. A PGDip typically takes approximately 15 months to complete if you’re studying part-time and is worth 120 academic credits. Postgraduate diplomas are a great option for students looking for a flexible course that offers career progression while enabling them to juggle work and family commitments.

You should consider a PGDip if:

  • You can commit to 30 weeks of full-time study or 15 months part-time study.
  • You are looking for career advancement.
  • You want to pursue a more affordable postgraduate course.
  • You want to study the same taught content as a masters degree without completing a dissertation or major final project.

Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert)

A postgraduate certificate is the shortest commonly available postgraduate qualification. You can typically earn a PGCert after a term (15 weeks) of full-time study and it is worth 60 academic credits. A PGCert is a good option for individuals who want to boost their career by taking a vocational course that opens new doors within their current field. An exception to this is the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE), which takes 30 weeks of part-time study and provides graduates with an internationally recognised teaching qualification.

You should consider a PGCert if:

  • You want to complete your qualification quickly (15 weeks of full-time study or up to a year part-time).
  • You are looking for career advancement in a specific field.
  • You want to pursue a more affordable postgraduate course.
  • You want to become a higher education teacher or gain an internationally recognised teaching qualification.

Studying with Falmouth Flexible

Offering the chance to study Falmouth University programmes flexibly from anywhere in the world, Falmouth Flexible degrees are available as both MA and PGDip courses and allow students to study at their own personal speed whilst fitting around work and personal responsibilities. 

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