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What Is Postgraduate Study in Australia?

By   /  May 11, 2024  /  Comments Off on What Is Postgraduate Study in Australia?

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What Is Postgraduate Study in Australia?

When someone uses the term ‘postgraduate study’ in Australia, they are generally referring to university courses for people who have already graduated with a degree. It is advanced study and includes graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, and master’s degrees.

Let’s explore the meaning of postgraduate study at Australian universities and the different course options.


Postgraduate study in Australia refers to education undertaken after completing a bachelor degree. It includes advanced courses such as graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, master’s degrees, and PhDs and other doctorates.

An honours degree is generally considered to be an extension of undergraduate study but is post graduate in a technical sense. It typically involves a year of extra study and research after earning a bachelor degree.

Undergraduate vs Postgraduate Study

While postgraduate study is education after you complete a bachelor degree, undergraduate study is university education before this. In Australia, bachelor studies and undergraduate study are essentially the same thing. Unlike the US, associate bachelor degrees (which are also undergraduate) are rare. Almost every undergraduate university student is enrolled in a bachelor degree.

Undergraduate programs typically last three to four years and are aimed at high school graduates. These programs provide a broad knowledge base across various subjects.

Entry into undergraduate programs is usually based on high school results (ATAR scores for local students). Postgraduate programs require a completed undergraduate degree or relevant professional experience.

Entry Requirements

The standard expectation for entry into postgraduate courses in Australia is that applicants hold an undergraduate degree. However, alternative pathways are available for those who do not meet this criterion.

In addition to a completed bachelor’s degree, some programs may consider professional experience or other qualifications. For instance, individuals with substantial professional experience in a relevant field may be eligible for certain postgraduate courses, particularly in areas like business or management.

Further, some programs offer pathways through graduate certificates. This qualification can provide the foundational knowledge needed to progress to more advanced studies, even for those without an undergraduate degree.

Graduate Certificate

A Graduate Certificate is the shortest postgraduate qualification available in Australia. It ranks at Level 8 on the Australian Qualifications Framework, alongside Bachelor Honours and Graduate Diplomas. This qualification generally involves completing four subjects. Full-time students can finish in one semester, while part-time students might take about eight months.

The course is designed for quick upskilling, focusing on recency and relevance. Popular fields include Business, Cyber Security, and Health Management. Although a graduate certificate doesn’t offer the extensive training of a degree, it’s highly respected. It provides a pathway to further studies, potentially reducing the duration of subsequent courses.

Graduate Diploma

A Graduate Diploma is considered an intermediate postgraduate qualification in Australia. It typically represents about half of a master’s degree. This qualification usually involves completing eight subjects. This is roughly equivalent to one year of full-time university study.

Graduate Diplomas provide a substantial, yet accessible level of postgraduate education. They offer more substantial skill development than a graduate certificate but take less time than a masters.

Masters Degree

A master’s degree is a postgraduate degree for mature students who already hold an undergraduate degree or postgraduate qualification. Compared to a bachelor degree, a masters is shorter and more focused.

In Australia, master’s programs usually last between 1 and 2 years. The standard duration for full-time students is 1.5 years.

This degree is particularly appealing to older students returning to university. They often have clear learning objectives. Their goal is focused study that prepares them for specific career paths. This makes the master’s degree a compact and specialised form of education.

Prior knowledge in the field of study is not always required. For example, Australian MBA degrees, which are management programs, are open to students from various backgrounds. A Master of Teaching is suitable for graduates transitioning into teaching from other disciplines.

Course Duration

Master’s programs typically require 1.5 years to complete. They cover 12 subjects across three semesters. Australian universities generally run on a two-semester system each year.

Some master’s programs may extend to two years, involving 16 subjects. For students with advanced standing or relevant qualifications, the duration can be reduced to one year and eight subjects due to recognition of prior learning (RPL).

Research masters have variable lengths. These depend on the pace of the student’s research.

Graduate certificates often consist of four subjects. They can typically be completed in one semester. Graduate diplomas usually require eight subjects. They are completed in two semesters.

AQF Postgraduate Qualification Levels

Postgraduate qualifications in Australia are rated higher than bachelor degrees under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

A bachelor degree is rated at Level 7.

Graduate certificates and Graduate diplomas are classified at Level 8. They offer a more focused and advanced skill set for professional development.

Masters degrees are placed at Level 9. They deliver specialised knowledge and skills for complex professional roles and leadership positions.

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