Postgraduate Study

Further study has become commonplace in today’s competitive job market. Around 20 per cent of bachelor degree graduates immediately go on to further study (either part- or full-time) and many others do so at some point later in their careers.

Of those enrolled in study in 2008 over 27 per cent were in some form of postgraduate study (nearly 5 per cent in a research qualification), up from 16 per cent in 1996 (DEEWR Selected Higher Education Statistics 2008). However, the number of people between 15 and 64 who have postgraduate qualifications nationwide is only 6.2 per cent, as opposed to the 15.8 per cent whose highest qualification is a bachelor degree (‘ABS Education and Work, Australia 6227.0 May 2008’).

Types of postgraduate study

Want to undertake postgraduate study but daunted by the array of courses and confusing terminology? You are not alone. The different qualification levels available can be confusing if you are not familiar with standard postgraduate concepts and structures.


Some Australian universities offer an honours year as part of an undergraduate qualification. But it is generally considered a postgraduate year because a bachelor degree can be completed without it. To be eligible for honours, students need a high grade point average (GPA) for their core undergraduate years. An honours year contains both a research project and a course work component. In some disciplines, such as Science or Humanities, honours is considered a stepping stone toward a research career.


  • A Graduate Certificate (Grad Cert) can be completed with a three-year bachelor degree under your belt and usually takes one semester full-time (two semesters part-time). A relevant undergraduate degree is often required, however appropriate work experience can sometimes count.
  • A Graduate/Postgraduate Diploma (Grad Dip/PG Dip) is a step up from the Grad Cert and is generally one year full-time study (two years part-time). Often it can be continued on from the Grad Cert and requires similar prerequisites.
  • Masters by Coursework is similar to the Grad Cert and Dip, and requires a relevant undergraduate qualification or some form of relevant work experience. A masters usually takes 18 months to complete full time.

The structure of each qualification varies according to the discipline. They are usually structured like an undergraduate course; students enrol in a series of units and complete a certain amount of ‘credit points’.

  • The Professional Doctorate is considered a coursework qualification; it endows the title of Doctor and has an equivalent education level to a PhD. Where a PhD is most often an avenue to a career in academia, the professional doctorate caters for those wishing to pursue non-academia based careers (though not exclusively so).


Postgrad Voice:

“I chose to undertake a PhD because it offers a tremendous amount of freedom in my work, with substantial resources made available to support me. The independence and initiative this generates is essential for leading an academic research team, and is highly regarded in industry.”
– David Perry, PhD Candidate, graduating Dec 2010, The Bionic Ear Institute & University of Melbourne (Department of Otolaryngology)

“A change in course structure triggered my decision to undertake the Master of Architecture (Design). Midway through my Bachelor of Architecture/Bachelor of Construction Management, the option to transfer into a new masters program seemed a logical choice as it could be achieved in the same time as the original bachelor degrees. However, the choice to pursue a masters also enhances the educational achievements of my CV and should prove beneficial in the widespread search for employment.”
– Claude Di Rosso, Master of Architecture (Design), completed 2009, Deakin University