Types of postgraduate degrees and pathways

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Types of postgraduate degrees and pathways


USC offers a variety of postgraduate study options. Your study pathway will depend on your course and your faculty. See your course information for more detail.

Graduate certificate

A graduate certificate is a short, focused qualification that lets you build skills and knowledge in a particular area. A graduate certificate typically consists of four courses, and can be completed in as little as one semester (full time).

In some disciplines, graduate certificates are ‘nested’ within higher awards. This means you can study a graduate certificate on its own, then return later to complete a graduate diploma or masters degree in the same field and receive full credit for the lower award.

If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you can apply for entry to some graduate certificate programs based on things like recognised professional registration or vocational training, relevant professional experience or demonstrable expertise in the field.

Graduate diploma

A graduate diploma builds on a graduate certificate, and allows you to deepen or expand your knowledge in a particular area.

A graduate diploma typically consists of eight courses, and can be completed in two semesters (one year) full time.

Masters by coursework

A masters degree is an advanced (AQF level 8) qualification that builds high-level knowledge and skills in an industry or profession. Depending on the field, a masters degree typically takes between one and two years to complete (full time). Some masters degrees require previous study in the same field, while others provide a pathway to a career change.

A masters degree by coursework involves studying core units and a selection of electives. This is distinct from a masters degree by research, which requires you to conduct an independent research project and write a thesis on a topic of your choice.

Higher degree by research (Masters or PhD)

A Higher Degree by Research (HDR) is a supervised research program that requires original research in an area that both interests you and is of broader significance to the University and the community.

Research masters degrees require you to make a significant contribution of merit through advanced research, study and production of a work in a scholarly branch of learning, while doctoral degrees expect you to make a substantial original contribution to knowledge through your research.

Doctoral programs typically take three to four years to complete and Masters programs around 18 months to two years studying full-time. Part-time study will double these timeframes.

HDRs may include advanced coursework. However, all programs must include a major research component that comprises at least two thirds of the total candidature requirements.

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