At postgraduate level, the main qualifications offered are:
A master’s degree is a second-level qualification after you have completed an undergraduate degree.
It allows you to gain more knowledge in your undergraduate degree subject, or to go in a completely different direction. You usually study a subject in a lot of depth, often with a long piece of original work at the end called a thesis or dissertation.
There are two main types of master’s degrees: taught and research.
Some common master’s degrees include:
- MA (Master of Arts) in a wide range of arts or humanities subjects.
- MSc (Master of Science).
- A range of subject-specific qualifications including MEng (Master of Engineering), MFA (Master of Fine Arts), LLM (Master of Laws), MArch (Master of Architecture), and more.
- Courses leading to an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) qualification, which are research-led and often designed for students to progress to a PhD.
Note that some Scottish universities offer an undergraduate degree called a Scottish Masters of Arts. This shouldn’t be confused with a postgraduate master’s.
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is an internationally recognised qualification which gives you the skills you need for a successful management career.
PhDs or doctorates
A Doctor of Philosophy, or doctorate (PhD/DPhil), is the highest academic level a student can achieve. These degrees are very demanding and often lead to careers in academia (as a lecturer or researcher). Most students will complete a master’s degree before they do a PhD, although this isn’t always necessary.
Postgraduate diplomas and qualifications
‘Postgrad’ certificates and diplomas allow students to study something new or build on the skills and knowledge already gained during their undergraduate degree. They are usually shorter than a master’s and you won’t have to do a thesis or dissertation.
Professional and vocational qualifications
These qualifications help you improve or gain skills for specific jobs. Most awards involve practical training. This gives you the opportunity to experience a job first-hand.
A conversion course is a vocational postgraduate qualification usually taken by graduates who want to change subject area after their first degree. Often students do this to develop more professional skills. For example, you could study History for your undergraduate degree and do a Law conversion course to begin your career as a lawyer.