May 29, 2022
What's the Difference Between a Master and a Postgraduate Degree

What’s the Difference Between a Master and a Postgraduate Degree


If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree, one of the first things you will probably want to know is the difference between master and postgraduate degrees. The terms master and postgraduate are often used interchangeably, but there are actually some key differences that set these degrees apart. This article breaks down the distinction between master and postgraduate degrees as well as what earning each one can do for your career prospects. It also examines the financial differences between master and postgraduate programs so you can decide which of these degrees is right for you.

Master programs
Typically 2-3 years in length, master programs are for those who want to further their education in a specific field. These programs typically require full-time study and will award you with a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), or another terminal degree at graduation. Examples of areas you could focus on within these programs include: Biology, Chemistry, Math & Statistics, Social Sciences, Fine Arts (Dance/Art/Music), Business & Economics.

Postgraduate degrees
A postgraduate degree is more specific than an undergraduate degree. Whereas undergraduates study general subjects, such as history or literature, postgraduates specialize in narrow subjects like forensic science or biochemistry. In most cases, however, it’s simply an upgraded master’s degree; they both might be called master of arts. Some programs confer doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees rather than master’s. But not all PhD programs are doctoral level—some are lower level compared to their MA counterparts (such as a PhD in engineering compared to an MS in engineering). And although some graduates go on to professional schools or medical school, others pursue careers that don’t require advanced degrees, such as teaching.

Comparing masters vs. postgrad degrees
A master’s degree is typically considered to be an advanced academic credential, beyond a bachelor’s degree. The Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) are two popular examples of these advanced degrees. Some professional fields, like business administration or architecture, require master’s degrees in order to practice professionally. A postgraduate degree, on the other hand, may be slightly different. These programs tend to focus more on teaching students practical knowledge that can be applied immediately in their careers rather than more theoretical research-based knowledge. For example, a postgraduate diploma might cover topics like project management or time management for busy professionals. Whichever one you choose depends largely on your career goals; do you want to take your education further as a stepping stone toward higher pay? Or do you prefer hands-on practical knowledge with no intention of advancing further professionally? If you’re unsure, there’s nothing wrong with starting off at the postgraduate level—you can always decide later if another type of graduate program would be better suited for your goals.

Choosing between master’s and PhD programs
After undergraduate study, many students decide to pursue further education in order to specialize their training. If you’re weighing your options for postgraduate degrees, read on to learn more about master’s programs vs PhD programs. While master’s degree programs generally take between one and two years to complete (sometimes three), PhD degree programs can last several years—typically from four to six—before completion; at that point, some students choose to continue doctoral studies while others get jobs in academia or industry. Both degrees focus on intensive learning; however, Ph.D program candidates work under close supervision as part of research teams, whereas those enrolled in master’s degree program typically have less direct oversight during their studies.

Both master’s degrees and postgraduate degrees are available to students after they have graduated from their bachelor’s program. However, they each serve different purposes. A master’s degree is designed for students who want to earn more credits in their major while continuing to expand their knowledge of that subject; whereas, a postgraduate degree is designed for students who want to gain credentials in a different field of study.

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