What Is a PGDip?

Updated 1 June 2020

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Postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) are professional courses designed to further your skills in a certain area or train you for a specific career path. They are postgraduate qualifications, typically taken after finishing an undergraduate degree.

A PGDip can be a good idea if you’re looking to boost your education in the hopes of securing a specific job. It can also be useful if you are already in the workforce and you’re looking to boost your skill set.

Postgraduate diplomas are at the same level as a master’s degree, though they are shorter in duration and do not earn as many points.

A PGDip can be done with full or part-time study, the former taking two terms of study to complete.

How Does a PGDip Differ from a Master’s Degree?

Both a PGDip and a master’s degree are at the same level of study and both are offered in many of the same subjects. Depending on the course of study, the programs could also both be a mix of academic and practical work.

However there are some differences and if you are thinking of doing a PGDip, you should be aware of what they are:

  • A PGDip won’t take as long as a master’s degree and will be cheaper – usually 9 months for 120 credits (whereas a master’s degree will typically take a year and will consist of modules worth 180 credits). As such, you will not pay as much for a PGDip as you would for a master's degree.

  • Although you will study similar material to a master's, you will not be expected to complete a research project or postgraduate dissertation; instead, you will be assessed throughout the course.

  • A PGDip will not result in a full degree (although it can be extended with further study if desired).

Pros and Cons of Studying for a PGDip

If you are undecided whether to further your studies with a PGDip, a master’s degree or go straight into employment, below are some pros and cons for studying a PGDip.

Advantages

  • Studying for a PGDip will usually cost you less than a master’s degree. The average cost of a PGDip is £5,000 to £7,000, while a master’s degree will cost £6,000 to £10,000.

  • A PGDip is one of the shorter postgraduate qualifications, much like the PGCert. If you’re in a hurry or taking a career break, the shorter length will be welcome.

  • There are so many PGDips to choose from that you’re likely to find something to study that is relevant to your career or your interests. A full list of available PGDip programs is available here.

  • PGDips are practical and focus on skills you need to do the job you want effectively. Plus there is no dissertation at the end.

  • A PGDip can be completed on a full or part-time schedule. This is particularly beneficial if you’re still in the workforce and you don’t want to take a lot of time off to complete your qualification.

Disadvantages

  • Funding options may be more limited for PGDips than for master’s degrees. Many scholarships depend on being enrolled in a full course and most loans won’t be available. You can always search for studentships, bursaries and grants – as well as possible help from your employer if you’re doing a PGDip to better your career. Check out funding options here.

  • While a PGDip may be less costly up front, there are other costs to consider. These will vary depending on educational materials required, as well as potential moving and living costs. Some programs may require unpaid work placements. In the end, you may end up close to the cost of doing a master’s degree.

  • A PGDip doesn’t carry the same level of academic standing as a master’s degree does and may not be recognised if you choose to work abroad. 

What Is It like to Study for a PGDip?

Although it will depend on your course of study, you should expect your postgraduate study to be quite different from your undergraduate degree.

Your PGDip will be shorter than most other postgraduate options (except the PGCert). Most PGDips are completed within 9 months, or 18 months if done on a part-time basis. You will be studying at a higher and more intensive level than you did for your undergraduate degree.

Depending on your course of study, there will be seminars, lectures and coursework, as well as possible practical outside work related to your study. These will normally follow a similar structure to the equivalent master’s degree programme.

How Will My PGDip Be Assessed?

A PGDip program is assessed through coursework, essays and general assignments for each module. Some professional programs may include practical assessments to test skills.

Your overall mark will earn a pass (50 to 59), merit (60 to 69) or distinction (70+).

What Qualifications Do You Need to Take a PGDip?

Before applying to any course or program, always check with the school about what their admission requirements are. Generally, though, to gain entry for a PGDip, you will require at least a 2.1 degree or better, though some may accept a 2.2.

Professionals and those making a career change may need a certain amount of work experience in addition to a degree.

How to Apply for a PGDip

Before applying, make sure you check your chosen university’s requirements for admission. For a PGDip, you will usually apply direct via the university’s website. Always apply as early as possible.

It is likely that you will be asked to complete an application form and provide a postgraduate personal statement and references.

Sometimes, decisions will be made based solely on these, but you might also be asked to attend an interview (either in person or via Skype), sit an aptitude test or exam, or even present a portfolio of work.

Pay careful attention to the closing dates, since you want to make sure you give yourself ample time to prepare your application.

Is a PGDip Right for Me?

Deciding to further your education with a PGDip is a big commitment of both time and money and it can be daunting. It’s beneficial to gather as much information as possible before making your decision.

If you are unsure that the PGDip is right for you, check out our article on postgraduate study for other study options.

Here are some steps you can take to help make your decision a bit easier:

  • Try speaking to a careers advisor. They will have the relevant information about costs, curriculum and the current need in the economy.

  • Visit careers fairs and workshops to get an idea of what kind of need there is for a PGDip in the working world. Meet with potential employers and ask them if a PGDip is an attractive asset to a CV or whether they see no need for it.

  • Attend open days of the schools that interest you. Talk to the teachers or other students and find out what the school and the program are like.

  • Look at the ranking of the school you are interested in and the content of the course. Will it ultimately look good on your CV? Will it get you the job you want?

  • Are the fees compatible with what you can pay? Or is there a cheaper option available? Keep an eye out for any hidden costs. Are the textbooks expensive? Are there additional fees for other materials? Make sure you ask about this upfront, so you don’t have any surprises once on the course.

  • Look at your funding options, especially if paying the fees is a bit of a stretch. Find out which (and how many) loans or bursaries you might qualify for. It may mean having to borrow or take a part-time job so you also need to decide if you are OK with that.

  • Check out the WikiJob forum where you can ask any pertinent questions. You may also find that there is someone with the same questions and/or concerns that you have. It’s always helpful to talk things over with someone in a similar situation.

Final Thoughts

If you are considering a PGDip, make sure that you have made an informed decision and that it is one that will benefit you in the long run. Factor in the costs, the curriculum, and the pros and cons before making your decision.

Even if you choose not to do a PGDip now, it doesn’t mean you can’t explore the idea later on in your career. The door is never closed.

Further Reading

You might also be interested in these other WikiJob articles:

What Is a PGCert? a Complete Guide

What Is a Postgraduate Degree?

What's the Difference between a Bursary, Scholarship & Loan?

5 Key Differences between Postgrad and Undergrad Study

A Guide to Postgraduate/Master’s Personal Statements