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Postgraduate study options

Australian and New Zealand universities offer a large number of course options for students considering postgraduate study. In addition to masters degrees (which can be taught, undertaken by research, or by a combination of the two) there are also graduate and postgraduate diplomas and graduate certificates available.

Postgraduate and graduate diplomas and certificates are shorter and less academically demanding than masters programmes. They can be taken as standalone qualifications, but are also sometimes recommended as a first step for students who do not initially meet entry requirements, as a way of gaining the required skills or knowledge for admission to masters courses.

There are several different types of taught postgraduate courses available in Australia and New Zealand.

Professional development programmes

These courses offer people who have already qualified in a profession or a subject the opportunity to specialise in a particular area. They include, for example, a Master of Marketing, Master of Engineering or Master of Education. For a qualified teacher, this could mean studying education for gifted children, special needs teaching or school management. An engineer could enrol on a Master of Engineering to become specialist in a given field, or alternatively to train in management for engineering.

In order to be eligible for entry to these courses, applicants are usually required to have relevant work experience as well as a professional academic qualification in their field. These courses are usually taught, though some may offer research modules or options.

Graduate entry professional qualifications

These include courses such as Graduate Entry Medicine as well as the Master of Nursing, which allows graduates with degrees in other subjects to train and qualify as nurses. Another example is the Master of Teaching, which allows graduates of non-teaching degrees to train and qualify as teachers. Australian and New Zealand universities offer graduate entry professional courses in a range of areas, including social work, law, dentistry, physiotherapy and veterinary science. Some require applicants to have a relevant undergraduate degree; others do not, so don’t assume that your options will be limited by your academic background – please contact a Study Options advisor to check!

These courses are almost always taught, offering very few or no opportunities to undertake research.

Traditional masters courses

These aim to strengthen and develop a student’s knowledge in a particular subject. They are the most traditional form of postgraduate study and include programmes such as a Master of Arts in, for example, History, or a Master of Science in Physics. In order to be eligible for entry to these courses, an applicant would usually need to have an undergraduate degree in the same subject, or a strongly relevant subject, to the one they want to study at masters level.

These courses can be taken by coursework, or by research, or by a combination of these two modes of study.

‘Change of direction’ masters courses

These allow students who have an undergraduate degree in one academic area to gain a solid understanding of and qualification in another academic area. They include courses such as the Master of Commerce – a general programme that provides a solid grounding in most major aspects of business before allowing students to choose a specialism such as marketing or management. These courses are open to applicants with a degree in any academic discipline. They are predominantly taught, though some offer opportunities for research work.

Masters courses vary in length. In New Zealand, masters are usually 12-18 months (coursework qualifications) or two years long (coursework and research). In Australia masters courses can be one, one and a half, or two years long. The duration of a course depends on the subject, but also often on the applicant’s background.
Masters degrees can be taught, or undertaken by research, or by a combination of the two.

The basic entry requirement for admission to postgraduate study in Australia and New Zealand is for a student to have successfully completed a Bachelors degree, but exact academic and professional background and achievement standards required vary considerably between courses and universities. Please contact a Study Options advisor for more information or to discuss your case.